Falcons declaw Tiger offense to steal a needed win

Falcon Eric Stallman looks to Parker Barnett in the third quarter before throwing to CJ Baker on the inside. Baker scored two and the team went on to win

Falcon Jeff Brasko and company caught fire Friday and smoked the Tigers.

South Whidbey beat Granite Falls 45-37 in a crucial Cascade Conference game.

Although King’s is still undefeated in the 1A class, in the 2A slot the Falcons are 2-3 and 6-5 overall and pulled even with Granite Falls to stay third in league standings.

“Jeff had a great game,” said Falcons coach Scott Collins. “He’s one of those kids who just loves playing. If you’re putting together a pick-up squad, you want him on your side.”

It took the boys awhile to get going. The Tiger’s Ryan Hillery scored first, followed by a trey from Thomas Knudson and Granite Falls moved ahead 5-0 early in the first quarter.

After three minutes of fine Tiger defense, Parker Barnett connected with the hoop on a hotly-contested layup for the Falcons.

Ever so gradually, South Whidbey pulled even until, with 1:54 left, Eric Stallman tied the game 5-5 at the foul line.

At the break, the Falcons led 7-5 and it looked like a long night for the boys and a big, loud and supportive home crowd.

Solid defense combined with lousy shooting from both teams kept the score low — it took two minutes into the second stanza for the Falcons to crack the double-digit barrier. The Tigers were fast and scrappy, but thefts and forced turnovers kept the Falcons in the game.

Shooting improved dramatically, however, as Eric Stallman, Barnett, Blake Blakey and CJ Baker caught their groove.

With just a few ticks left in the second quarter, Blakey hit for three and the Falcons led 21-17 at the half.

The second installment was a different story entirely. The Falcons stepped up the tempo as Adam Hosmer, Eric Stallman and Barnett found the net and Brasko committed a series of grand theft maneuvers that stunned the Tigers.

“We planned from the start to press them hard and force them to make mistakes,” Brasko said. “It just took us time to get going.”

No Granite Falls player was safe — Brasko even grabbed the ball out the hands of Tiger forward Max Whitt, which Brasko converted for two of his eight points on the night.

“We shot better tonight; not much better, but enough,” Barnett said. “We had an easy practice the day before and plenty of rest which I think helped. That, and the fans.”

The Tigers tried their best — Knudson and Hillery each made some great rebounds under the net — but they lacked the firepower to match South Whidbey. Scott Stallman and Brasko maintained defensive pressure and Barnett was the Falcons’ layup king.

In the final 30 seconds, Brasko capped his efforts with his fifth steal and fourth score to make it 45-37.

Eric Stallman said that before the game everyone had agreed to play their best.

“Our intensity was really up there and it was a big win for us,” he said.

His brother Scott agreed. “Everybody contributed and that was the key to victory,” he said.

“Every player did something for us tonight, especially on defense,” Collins said. “They knew we needed this win and reacted.”

Chris Carey recalled the coach’s words at halftime. “He told us not to play their game,” he said. “They were a good team but we got in their faces and caused some real havoc.”

Barnett noted the team is getting more comfortable with Collins’ style. “We have a better understanding now of how he wants us to play,” Barnett said. “We just have to go out and do it, every time.”

Barnett led South Whidbey with 12 points and eight rebounds, Brasko and Hosmer had eight points each and Blakey six. Brasko and Barnett combined for seven steals.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, the team welcomes the Lakewood Cougars to Erikson Gym. Lakewood is 1-4, 3-8 overall.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.