Sultan has been the backbreaker for South Whidbey’s boys basketball team the past two seasons.
Last year, the Turks prevented South Whidbey from securing a second-seed in the Northwest District 1 Tournament.
This season, they’ve knocked them out of the postseason all together.
Despite a career-high 41 points by senior Chase White, the Falcons lost to Sultan, 67-58, on Friday night at South Whidbey High School. South Whidbey led only twice and spent a majority of the game catching up to the screen-heavy offense of the Turks, led by senior guard Tyler Morris.
The loss dropped South Whidbey to 6-10 overall and 2-8 in the Cascade Conference. Both of South Whidbey’s league wins came against Class 2A competitors Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood and will not count toward a berth to the 1A District 1 Tournament. The Turks improved to 4-11 overall and 4-6 in league and secured the third seed in the playoffs. King’s will advance as the top seed at 12-3 overall and 9-0 in league. Cedar Park Christian claimed the second seed at 8-7 overall and 6-3 in league.
While White continued his trailblazing season in terms of points scored, South Whidbey was without one its best rebounders. Junior Maxfield Friedman missed the game due to an illness. The Falcons were often hard-pressed to claim or retain possessions and it was a major factor in the loss, White said.
“Max is so strong and he pulls down boards,” White said. “Without him tonight, we were kind of struggling inside on the boards.”
“Possessions mean everything in basketball. We just didn’t take care of the ball possession-wise tonight,” he added.
South Whidbey trailed 17-8 after the first quarter. White said the Turks held more possessions than the Falcons did in the opening quarter while also grabbing offensive boards in consistent fashion. South Whidbey’s defense struggled to break through the Turks’ screens and defend their primary offensive weapon, senior guard Tyler Morris.
The Falcons made a brief surge on offense at the start of the second quarter, after scores by White, junior Cameron Asay and senior Donovan Miller brought South Whidbey within four points of the lead. But a foul on Turk guard Chris Walcott after a layup led to a quick three points for Sultan. Walcott’s score was followed by a layup from Sultan forward Justus Headrick.
Two errant passes intended for Asay from White led to two consecutive turnovers for the Falcons, but the Turks were unable to capitalize.
White’s two free throw points and sophomore Anton Klein’s one helped South Whidbey close the lead back to four. With the half winding down, Morris knocked down a three-point field goal to push Sultan ahead, 27-20. White was fouled with 17 seconds left in the half and made one of his two free throws.
The Falcons trailed 27-21 at halftime.
“Rebounding is just a mindset honestly, and I feel like we weren’t aggressive enough on the boards and the defensive end tonight,” White said. “That first half, we always seem to find ourselves down because of those little things. It’s the little things that make the difference.”
South Whidbey came within two points of the lead in the third quarter when junior Tyler Heggenes stole a pass and passed to White, who was fouled. White made one of his two free throws to close the deficit to 34-32. Heggenes captured a defensive rebound on the following Turk possession, but sophomore Lewis Pope was called for traveling.
Morris netted a three-point field goal following the turnover. Morris hit another three-pointer with two minutes left to play in the third quarter to push the Turks ahead by nine.
White scored four points on four free throws with under a minute to play, but a last-second foul on Morris led to three points at the end of the quarter.
The Falcons hung with the Turks early in the fourth quarter. A steal and layup by Miller brought the Falcons back within two points of the lead, but it was the closest they would get the rest of the game. Morris provided clutch points as the game came to a close.
“That kid is really good,” said Falcon head coach Mike Washington. “He’s legit. He’s strong, he can handle the ball, he’s smart.”
Having played in what will be the Falcons’ second-to-last home game, Miller said it was a tough pill to swallow. Knowing what may be accomplished by next year’s squad gave White some hope, however. He’s also not going to let the last few games of his career pass him by.
“I don’t really want to think about the future right now, I just want to be able to enjoy these last few games and try our best to make a playoff run,” White said. “If it doesn’t happen, you die with your brothers. I really want to focus on every single last game we have to try and create some memories that I can really hold on to.”