No matter what the score, South Whidbey girls basketball head coach Jeff Hanson could count on the team to try its hardest.
This was true to the very end in his eyes.
The Falcons lost two consecutive games in the 1A District 1 tournament, spelling the end of their season. South Whidbey dropped its first round game to Nooksack Valley 57-34 on Feb. 5, followed by a season-ending 56-21 loss to Meridian on Feb. 8.
Both of the Falcons’ opponents were near the top of the leaderboard in the Northwest Conference with more than twice the number of wins South Whidbey had. But it didn’t mean South Whidbey was going to give in.
“The girls played super hard,” Hanson said. “We never ever quit.”
“If we’d given up, it wouldn’t been a really long, hard season,” he added.
Senior Mikayla Hezel agreed. She said they took Hanson seriously when he asked them to try and improve each game. Giving up before the final whistle wasn’t going to accomplish that.
“We have really coachable girls,” Hezel said. “We respect what the coach says and when the coach says to improve each game and get better each game, we take that to heart and mind. I think the girls reflected what he said really well. Not ever should a team give up because they’re losing.”
South Whidbey finished 7-15 overall and 3-9 in the Cascade Conference. Hezel was happy to have made the postseason as a fourth-year player, but sad with the eventual outcome.
“This season ended kind of abruptly for me being a senior,” Hezel said. All of a sudden all that time and work and dedication you had to the sport just comes to a stop. I can speak on the behalf of Mackenzie (Collins) and Ally (Lynch) and Kolby (Heggenes) —- we all felt the same way. It hits you in that last game like, ‘You’re done.’”
Hanson said the Falcons’ schedule had some challenges. Nine of their 22 games were against class 2A or 3A opponents. It will be a different story next year when South Whidbey joins the North Sound Conference, an all-1A league with Sultan, King’s, Cedar Park Christian, Coupeville and Granite Falls.
“To get the amount of wins we got in that situation was pretty good,” Hanson said.
The Falcons were 1-3 against 3A opponents. They beat Marysville-Pilchuck 40-34 on Dec. 21.
South Whidbey loses four seniors this year: Hezel, Heggenes, Lynch and Collins.
Heggenes led the team in scoring and rebounds, while Hezel was a starting guard for the past two years.
Collins was injured early on in the season. Things may have been different if that had not happened, Hanson said.
“That really hurt us to lose the starting post for the past two years,” Hanson said. “
Lynch was on junior varsity from freshman to junior year. Hanson was proud of what she was able to accomplish her senior year.
“She scored, she rebounded,” Hanson said. “She did really well.
There were ups and downs, from injuries to tough losses. All in all, Hezel considered it a successful season.
“The losses did hurt, but we had some wins in there that were great and that we deserved,” Hezel said.
The Falcons won their final home game of the season against Granite Falls 52-43 on Jan. 30 after losing to the Tigers 48-45 on Jan. 5.
Hezel’s sister, sophomore Karyna Hezel, thought the season sped by. It was her first year playing for the Falcons. She was among several underclassmen to pickup ample varsity action this year, which she thinks will benefit the program in the future.
“It kind of went fast,” Karyna Hezel said. “The end game was a little weird because the seniors aren’t going to be playing anymore. But I think it was a really good season and I learned a lot from Jeff.”
“I think we just kept getting better each game,” she added.