Starters Teah Wanamaker, Lindsey Newman, Samantha Pope, Allison Wood and Cayla Calderwood took to the court Wednesday night for their final stand, a crossover playoff game with the Lynden Lions.
At stake was the chance to move forward in district playoffs.
Unfortunately, that will be the Lions who overwhelmed the Falcons 53-22 with half-court traps and pinpoint shooting.
“We knew what to expect from them,” Newman said. “We spent 45 minutes before the game working on our plays. But our offense, myself especially, broke down; I was closely guarded and just couldn’t get my shots in.”
The Lions scored first but Newman engaged her patented scramble offense and the score see-sawed as the Falcons actually moved ahead by one with 3:16 left in the quarter. Still, South Whidbey found itself down 12-14 at the first break.
“We hung in there for as long as possible,” junior Erica Johnson said.
It is the essential nature of basketball that neither fine passing, great defense, sharp rebounding or a surfeit of team spirit will bring victory — you gotta get the ball through the hoop and score to win.
Unfortunately, South Whidbey could do none of the above (though team spirit was much in evidence) and the Lady Falcons fell to 27-13 at the half.
Case in point: In the first seconds of the second half, Newman made a textbook cross-court pass to Pope who swiveled on her left foot and fired under the Lion’s radar to Lauren Sandri.
Sweet, but Sandri couldn’t connect and the Lions continued to forage successfully for points against the hapless Falcon defense.
In fact, in the final period the Lions seemed to increase their intensity; nothing flashy, just solid play making.
On the sidelines watching his players continually throw the ball away, Falcons Coach Henry Pope tried hard to contain his frustration.
“I saw them make the same mistakes they made back in October,” he said.
“All my coaching flaws were in clear view; I have a lot to learn and the girls have a lot of work ahead of them before next year if we’re to be competitive in this league.
“However, when all is said or done, I’d do it all over again,” the first-year coach noted.
Pope said that getting the ball inside to the post player and having the guards protect the basketball on offense are two primary keys for next year.
And shooting, of course.
Despite the loss, the team performed better than some observers expected — their overall 9-12 record placed them fourth in the league.
Pope had praise for Newman, the team’s leader in scoring and rebounding.
“I have never been associated before with any player who gives 110 percent in determination, grit, guts, hustle and fire,” Pope said.
He also had kind words for his daughter, who had to live with her father’s frustrations long after each game ended. “Samantha took all my heat in stride,” Pope said. “It’s always 10 times tougher for the coach’s kid and I appreciate both her predicament and her fortitude.”
The promise for next year’s team surfaced, too, as Rachel Harris and Jennifer Gemkow were elevated to varsity and played against the Lions.
“Both girls have worked hard on the JV team and I wanted to reward their efforts by moving them up,” Pope said.
Johnson had her own prediction: “We had a pretty good year overall and next season will be even better.”