PORT TOWNSEND — The first half blues caught up with South Whidbey once again.
The Falcon boys basketball team had high hopes for the Port Townsend “Crush in the Slush” tournament — a chance to get ready for the new year and the resumption of league play this week against Cedarcrest.
In the end, the Falcons finished the tournament 2-1 overall, but they had a rocky start.
The third annual event gave teams from Chimicum, British Columbia, Australia, Blaine and Port Angeles the chance to test their mettle during the slow holiday season.
The first game matched the Falcons with the 3A Lakeside Lions from north Seattle.
It took until the fourth quarter for both sides to get into high gear, but Lakeside ended on top, 58-55.
The Lions led from the start. Behind 6-foot-7 Matt Ricci, Lakeside scored six before Falcon forward Parker Barnett picked up his first two.
As usual, South Whidbey demonstrated its signature sluggish gameplay, not at all helped by Lion Chris Pigott’s aggressive ball stealing ability and a Falcon propensity for turning the ball over.
Still the boys were only down by a point, 12-11, at the end of the first quarter.
In the second period, Barnett got help from Scott and Eric Stallman and Chris Carey, but still trailed by eight.
The Lions led 31-23 at the half.
Propelled by Blake Blakey’s slash-and-grab attack style, the boys shook off their torpor in the third quarter and began to take the Lions’ measure.
The high point was a curving pass from Barnett to Eric Stallman with two minutes left that ended in a lofted three-pointer over Ricci’s outstretched hands.
Sweet, as the guys would say, but the boys still trailed 39-28 at the third quarter break.
As the clock ticked down, physical play exploded in the fourth. Blakey kept the Lions guessing and Barnett scored but Lakeside responded two-for-two.
CJ Baker, who typically runs hot or cold, finally got a trey (after at least four tries) to make the score 56-55 with 26 seconds left.
Carey fouled, the Lions got two from the free-throw line and the Falcon’s last-minute heroics — Barnett to Eric Stallman to Carey — didn’t pan out.
The final was 58-55.
“We had a great fourth-quarter effort,” Baker said. “Blake made some cool clutch moves and Parker was hot on defense; we just need to build that intensity earlier in the game.”
Barnett had the same thought.
“We keep playing great basketball in the second half but that’s not going to take us anywhere,” he said.
Lakeside’s coach Abe Wehmiller said the late Falcon charge was a surprise.
“We expected to wrap up things by the half and then South Whidbey started really hitting the mark. They almost pulled it out,” Wehmiller said.
“I’m glad the boys didn’t quit when they were behind; it was one of our better fourth quarters,” said Falcon coach Scott Collins. “Clearly, we had too many turnovers at the start. Every game this year has been winnable; we’re either really good or really bad.”
Barnett had 26 points and picked up 12 rebounds, Scott Stallman seven, Eric Stallman, Blakey and Carey had six points each.
On Friday, the boys were in the “really good” mode, beating Sequim 51-43 then defeating the Chimicum Cowboys 42-34 on Saturday.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@south