After losing only three games over the first three months of the season, the South Whidbey High School boys basketball team dropped two during the final week of league play. Coach Greg Turcott, however, doesn’t see this as a problem.
He believes his team will be more than ready mentally and physically for the district tournament opener at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, when Nooksack Valley (9-11) comes to town.
The latest loss, 63-41 to visiting King’s Thursday, Feb. 6, was played in a “playoff atmosphere,” according to Turcott.
King’s (7-0, 11-9) wrapped up the North Sound Conference championship with the win and is one of the state’s top 1A schools.
Playing the Knights, “where every possession counts,” helped prepare the Falcons for the postseason, according to Turcott.
King’s plays “really good defense” and is a “disciplined, fundamentally sound team,” Turcott said. “They put on a clinic.”
Facing a talented team makes his club better, he added.
“We are trying to get the kids ready for a playoff game,” he said. “A game like this is a dress rehearsal for what a playoff game would be like.”
In Thursday’s game, South Whidbey went toe-to-toe with King’s except for one stretch when the Falcons’ shots wouldn’t fall. The Knights went on a 19-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters while South Whidbey saw shot after shot rim out.
“The kids felt good about the game; they felt they competed,” Turcott said. “They represented themselves and their school well.”
The first time the two teams met this season Jan. 7, King’s won 78-45. The Knights totally dominated the game, Turcott said.
Although the Falcons lost by 22 Thursday, they made King’s work much harder for the win this time around and, for much of the game, played at the Knights’ level.
The two biggest factors in South Whidbey’s loss was the early dry spell and the Knights’ Tyler Linhardt.
Both teams struggled to convert early. South Whidbey scored the game’s first bucket halfway through the first quarter. Over the next six minutes, the shots came but the points didn’t for the Falcons. King’s, meanwhile, finished the period on a rush and led 12-2.
The score was 19-2 before South Whidbey scored again at the 5:36 point of the second quarter. The scoring difference between the two teams stayed about the same the remainder of the game.
South Whidbey got to within 12 once but couldn’t claw all the way back.
Linhardt, a talented 6-7 sophomore, poured in 28 points to answer each Falcon rally. Jordan Hansen added 17 points for King’s; no other player tallied more than 5.
The Knights led 30-14 at halftime and 48-27 after three quarters.
South Whidbey received “a great game” from Carson Wrightson, according to Turcott. “He came to play tonight.”
Wrightson led South Whidbey in scoring with 14 points. Sterling Patton had 11, Jacob Ng 6, Nick Young 6, Kole Nelson 2 and Levi Buck 2.
After playing Nooksack Valley next Monday in the district tournament opener, the Falcons will play again in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. South Whidbey (15-5), the North Sound Conference’s No. 2 seed, will face either Sultan (5-14) at home or Lynden Christian (16-4) on the road.