Ten turnovers in the fourth quarter spelled doom for the South Whidbey boys basketball team in the Falcons’ first loss of the season, 50-47, to the Sultan Turks in Langley.
Sultan took a seven-point lead in the first quarter and held it until early in the third quarter. South Whidbey regained the lead and extended it to a five-point edge going into the final period.
But the Turks employed a full-court press defense and forced 10 turnovers to speed up the game, regain the lead and hold on for a nail-biter win.
“We went to the pressure and sped the game up a little bit,” said Turk head coach Nate Trichler. “We turned it over a little bit, but they turned it over a lot.”
“An island win’s a good win. It doesn’t matter what the final score is, as long as you come away with a win,” he added.
South Whidbey had its full roster in only the second game the Falcons have played this season. After missing seniors Mo Hamsa and Chandler Sutton in last week’s opening win over Coupeville, both were inserted into the starting lineup. That gave first-year Falcon head coach Mike Washington a big and tall squad to try to overpower the smaller Turks who were missing their tallest player, 6-foot-3 senior Deion Bonilla.
“I think our height is an advantage all the way,” Hamsa said after his first game since injuring his ankle last week. “We just have to learn to play as more of a team.”
Where South Whidbey tried to outmuscle, Sultan elected to out-hustle. The Turks swarmed Falcon senior Parker Collins any time he got the ball near the basket, leading to several turnovers as South Whidbey tried again and again to get the ball their leading scorer, a likely Cascade Conference most valuable player candidate.
“When you’ve got the best player in the conference, you go to that,” Hamsa said. “You can’t stop that kid. We want to use every part of our team because that’s how our offense works. But he’s definitely shown that he can score the basketball real well.”
Fouls also limited the Falcons’ size early in the game. Hamsa had to sit out much of the first half after picking up his second foul in the first quarter.
Defensively, South Whidbey appeared in disarray a few times. After last week’s win, Washington said the Falcons needed to work more on their zone defenses, but believed their best option was a man-to-man defense to utilize the players’ size, length and speed.
Relying on playing smart, Sultan was able to break South Whidbey’s defense enough times to win, Trichler said.
“We actually tried to put the smartest kids on him, so they saw what was happening to get position before the ball got reversed,” Trichler said.
“We knew we weren’t going to be stronger than him. He’s four inches taller than us.”
In the final four minutes, the score changed and was tied five times. The go-ahead point was a layup by Turk junior Tyler Morris, who finished with 13 points, tied for a team-high with Kolton Anderson and Chris Walcott, who hit four three-pointers for the fourth time this season.
Free-throw shooting was off for the Falcons, who made 19-of-27 last week. Against Sultan, South Whidbey went 10-of-17, while the Turks were comparable at 10-of-18.
Sultan had 18 turnovers, according to Trichler’s statistics, only two shy of South Whidbey’s 20. The difference was that half of the Falcons’ lost possessions came in the critical closing quarter.
Even when South Whidbey had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, a series of turnovers stunted their ability to score. The one clean look the Falcons had resulted in a pull-up jumper by Collins to cut the lead to 49-47. Collins led all scorers with 28 points, but no other Falcon scored more than five points.
“Their guards are really quick and they’re smart, they reach in and get the ball away,” Hamsa said. “It’s really hard to deal with that.”