South Whidbey boys basketball came away from its week long trip to San Diego in late December with some hardware.
The Falcons finished second in the 2017 Surf ’N Slam Tournament’s San Diego Division on Dec. 28-30.
South Whidbey (10-4 overall, 4-1 Cascade Conference) went 2-1. The Falcons’ two leading scorers and starting guards, senior Lewis Pope and junior Kody Newman, made the all-tournament team.
The trip wasn’t all about basketball. It included visits to Disneyland and Dave & Busters, where some players sang karaoke. But Pope and Newman said the Falcons ultimately benefitted from the tournament through both their play and the opportunity to bond as a team.
“It was good competition,” Pope said. “That’s like the main reason we went down there, to face guys and get better.”
Head coach Mike Washington considered the trip to be “an outstanding life and game experience for the team.” He added that the team exhibited good sportsmanship throughout the tournament and that he was told regularly that they “were a great group of young men.”
“I was extremely happy to hear that,” Washington said.
Things started a bit shaky against Scripps Ranch High School, which hosted the tournament, in the first round. The Falcons trailed by 12 points at halftime, which Newman and Pope attributed to a lack of enthusiasm and a little too much confidence.
“We were going in a little too lightheaded and a little too cocky,” Newman said. “These guys laid it down to us. Then, coach got on us and we played ball.”
The second half was a different story. The Falcons managed to flip the tide of the game with the help of their younger teammates, who are mostly sophomores, and won 54-46. Pope led the team with 24 points while Newman scored 23.
The background and skill sets of the teams in the tournament were unknown to the players. Washington had asked the coordinator to put South Whidbey up against schools that were the equivalent of class 1A in Washington. Washington, however, found out prior to tipoff that Scripps Ranch’s enrollment was nearly six times bigger than the Falcons — about 2,200 students.
He kept that tidbit to himself.
“I did not share that with the team until after the game,” Washington said. “We won the game 54-46, so it was a confidence boost.”
The players and coaches also noticed after the first game a difference in the style of officiating by referees in California. While Pope and Newman have observed Washington referees to be quick with their whistles, officials at the tournament allowed for more physical play.
Washington said it gave the Falcons a chance to test out their physicality.
“Our players had to become a bit more physical to compete,” Washington said. “I am very happy with our play and the experience they received.”
In the second round, South Whidbey faced Ridgefield, a class 2A team from Clark County in Washington.
It was a far more smooth performance than the previous game and the Falcons won 49-31. Newman was the leading scorer with 19 points.
South Whidbey faced far superior competition in the championship game. Northgate High School from San Francisco, which entered 10-0, beat the Falcons 61-33.
“I would have liked to have gone 3-0 and gotten first,” Pope said. “But, honestly, I think we might take away more from that. We played against a good Northgate (team). That was a good experience.”
South Whidbey returned from California and secured two consecutive league victories over Cedar Park Christian and Granite Falls. The Falcons played King’s, a team the program hasn’t beaten since Washington began coaching in 2014, after The Record’s deadline on Tuesday night.