Sixteen missed free throws and 22 turnovers sunk the South Whidbey High School boys basketball team in its season-opening 63-56 loss to visiting Meridian Tuesday, Nov. 27.
The Trojans used an aggressive, pressing defense to fluster the Falcons. Meridian never let up as coach Shane Stacy substituted in waves to keep his troops fresh.
“They had a good pressure defense,” South Whidbey coach Mike Washington said. “They made us play faster than we wanted to.”
Meridian trapped often and disrupted passing lanes, and the in-your-face style paid off, forcing 22 turnovers that the Trojans converted into 21 points.
The aggressive play also resulted in 30 fouls, sending the Falcons to the line for 32 shots, but South Whidbey could convert on only half.
The turnovers and constant trips to the foul line disrupted the flow of the game.
“We couldn’t get any rhythm,” Washington said. “It was an ugly game, but they made us play that way. They played good defense.”
Conversely, Meridian committed only six turnovers in the game, which lead to seven South Whidbey points. Also, the Trojans were 11-for-15 at the free-throw line.
Overall, Washington didn’t see many positives in the game other than the Falcons’ fourth-quarter comeback. South Whidbey trailed by 14 but trimmed the deficit to four before the rally ran out of steam.
The game started well for South Whidbey as Carson Wrightson and Kody Newman each scored to give the Falcons a 4-0 lead.
Meridian quickly bounced back. Seven different players scored as the Trojans went on a 14-4 run and led 14-8 at end of the opening period.
The scoring picked up in the second quarter. Six Trojans scored — three from beyond the arc — as Meridian produced 19 points and led 33-26 at the break.
South Whidbey kept pace with 18 points, getting six from Dexter Jokinen on a pair of three-balls, five from Newman and four from Nick Young.
Meridian began to pull away in the third quarter, outscoring South Whidbey 14-7. The period turned into a free-throw fest. During a four-minute span, the teams attempted 17 foul shots, and the Falcons made only two of nine.
Down 47-33 heading into the final quarter, South Whidbey clawed back into the game.
Levi Buck scored off an offensive rebound and then scored again on a nice feed from Kole Nelson. Newman swoshed a three-ball and dropped in three free throws, and South Whidbey trailed 52-45 with 4:47 remaining.
Young drilled a three, Newman hit from the line and then Young stole a pass and scored, slicing the gap to four, 55-51.
Meridian, however, withstood the surge and limited the damage the rest of the way.
Newman finished with a game-high 25 points, Young had 12, Jokinen 9, Buck 7, Wrightson 2 and Jacob Ng 1.
Wrightson added eight rebounds, and Buck collected six.
All 10 Trojans scored, led by Ryan Johnson with 20, 17 coming in the second half.
The Falcons play Vashon Island (1-0) at 3:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at the Tipoff Classic in Friday Harbor.
Depending on the outcome of the game, South Whidbey (0-1) will face either Friday Harbor (0-1) or Toledo (0-1) Saturday.
The next home game is 6:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, against Oak Harbor (1-0).
The Falcons won Tuesday’s junior varsity game, defeating Meridian 41-37.
South Whidbey built a 12-point lead and then held off the Trojans in the fourth quarter.
Ben Lind scored 12 points to pace the Falcons. Ng had 9, Luke Rookstool 6, Trustin Betteker 6, Brady Hezel 4, Cody Eager 2 and Lewis Mattson 2.
Other South Whidbey teams
The South Whidbey girls basketball game with Port Townsend scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28, was postponed.
The Falcons will join the boys in Friday Harbor this weekend for the Tipoff Classic, facing Seattle Academy at 2 p.m. Friday and either Friday Harbor or Clallam Bay Saturday.
The South Whidbey wrestling team opens its season at the 27-team Return to the Seahawk tournament at Chief Sealth High School Saturday, Dec. 1.