A stingy defense and some offense from an unexpected source propelled the South Whidbey High School boys basketball team into the second round of the district tournament.
The Falcons defeated visiting Granite Falls 61-38 Wednesday, Feb. 6, in an elimination game.
South Whidbey (14-7) now travels to Meridian (9-13) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, for a winner-to-bi-district, loser-out game. The Trojans, the No. 2 seed out of the Northwest Conference, lost 87-49 to King’s Wednesday.
If the Falcons win at Meridian, they will play either Nooksack Valley or Cedar Park Christian at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at Mount Vernon High School to determine the third and fourth seeds to bi-district.
Meridian (9-13) beat the Falcons 63-56 way back on Nov. 27 in the season opener.
King’s and Lynden Christian will play for the district title and the top two seeds to bi-district at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Mount Vernon.
South Whidbey 61, Granite Falls 39
The Falcons limited the Tigers to only 18 points through the first three quarters and cruised to the win.
Coach Mike Washington employed a box-and-one defense on Granite Falls’ top offensive threat, Ben Haider, and the strategy paid off.
Dexter Jokinen, with relief from Nick Young, held Haider to 2 points through the first three quarters.
With the game in hand, South Whidbey came out of the box-and-one when the reserves took over in the fourth quarter, and Haider pumped in 18 points.
Washington noted that Haider’s big fourth period only magnified the impressive defensive efforts of Jokinen and Young.
Young wasn’t only one of the defensive stars. He exploded for a career-high 23 points while hitting nine of 11 field goal attempts.
“Nick played great,” Washington said. “(He) played with a lot of confidence. (It’s the) best game I have seen him play.”
Jokinen also stood out on offense; he hit four three-pointers and finished with 12 points.
Kody Newman added 11 points, Sterling Patton 5, Brock Gray 3, Ben Lind 3, Jacob Ng 2 and Cody Eager 2.
Levi Buck had 7 rebounds, Kole Nelson 6 and Eager 5. Buck also had three steals and two blocks.
Jokinen hit two three-balls, Newman added another and Young and Patton each scored 3 points in the first quarter as the Falcons raced to a 15-2 lead.
Young tallied 10 points, Jokinen hit two more threes and Newman scored 4 points, helping South Whidbey go into the locker room ahead 35-10.
Young had 10 more points in the third period, pushing the Falcons’ lead to 53-18.
Lind and Gray both drained three-pointers for the Falcons in the final period.
Haider’s 18 points in the fourth against the South Whidbey subs helped the Tigers more than double their score.