Trailing by just nine points at halftime to returning state champ King’s might be considered by some an accomplishment in itself for the South Whidbey girls basketball team.
Not so for head coach Andy Davis. He wanted more.
When the buzzer sounded the end of the first half, Davis clapped his hands together hard and told his team to head to the locker room.
Falcon juniors Kinsey Eager and Bailey Forsyth said Davis was all business during the 15-minute break. He wasn’t going to let an opportunity like this slip by.
“At halftime, he came in and you could tell,” Forsyth said. “We were within nine of them and he really believed in us.”
Unfortunately, the Falcons were unable to keep pace with the Knights in the second half and lost, 41-26 on Tuesday night at South Whidbey High School. Costly slip-ups on defense and an inconsistent offensive attack spelled the defeat. South Whidbey dropped to 5-9 overall and 3-6 in the Cascade Conference. The Falcons are currently tied with Cedar Park Christian for the second-seed at the Class 1A Northwest District 1 playoffs. If the Falcons are able to defeat Sultan on Jan. 22, a game scheduled to occur after The Record went to press, and the Eagles on Jan. 29, they will secure a home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Despite the loss Tuesday, Forsyth and Eager said their defense was a reminder of how much the team has improved. The Falcons’ performance in the first half was even a surprise to the Knights, they said.
“No one really expects South Whidbey to be very good, especially compared to the last couple years,” Eager said. “We played our butts off because we have nothing to lose.”
The Falcons also surprised themselves.
“We’re always used to getting our butts kicked by them,” Forsyth said. “I think we kind of surprised ourselves in the first half and we kind of relaxed in the second half. Not a lot, but just enough where they could beat us.”
The Falcons’ strong effort in the first quarter set the tone for the game. That much was clear after the Falcons drew three team fouls within the first two minutes of the game. South Whidbey allowed only seven points in the first quarter, but was unable to score on the Knights’ stout defense. Knights’ junior guard Hannah Echelbarger opened the second quarter with a midrange score. Forsyth struck first for the Falcons when she netted a midrange field goal with 5:50 left in the second quarter, but the Falcons trailed, 9-2.
The Knights scored three more points on a field goal and free throw to push them ahead by 12. Falcon sophomore Mackenzee Collins scored on a layup through two defenders, and junior Megan Drake netted a three-pointer.
Forsyth closed out the first half with a midrange basket with 30 seconds left in the quarter. The Falcons trailed 18-9 at halftime.
“It felt pretty good to hold them to the score they had in the first half especially,” Forsyth said. “It was effort. We all went out there knowing that we had each other’s backs, so if we got beat on one, we knew the rest of the team would be there to help stop it.”
The Knights went on a 7-1 run to open the second half before a layup by Falcon junior Emily Turpin briefly shifted momentum back in South Whidbey’s favor with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Sophomore Mikayla Hezel stole a pass from a Knights player on the following play and outran a defender to score on a layup, bringing the Falcons within 11 points of the lead. Scores by Knights’ senior Daylee Hanson, sophomore Claire Diede, and Echelbarger helped push King’s to a 19-point lead, the biggest of the night. The Falcons scored up until the final buzzer, with sophomore Kolby Heggenes and junior Kacie Hanson sinking a combined four points on free throws, while Drake scored on a layup.
The Falcons’ defense held the Knights to their second lowest-scoring output of the season. South Whidbey’s relentless effort, which the Falcons felt weakened in the second half, led to a number of key stops which kept the Knights in check.
“I think the small victories led to a bigger defensive victory,” Eager said.