The South Whidbey girls basketball team gave their opponents, coaches, fans and fellow athletes Friday night a textbook case of why you never, ever give up.
In the final five minutes, the lead between the South Whidbey and Cedarcrest teams switched back and forth so often the guy keeping score was getting cross-eyed.
Cedarcrest jumped in front, then South Whidbey would lead by two, then it was the Red Wolves in front again.
Suddenly, Erica Johnson fouled out and left the game; Falcon Coach Henry Pope replaced her with senior Teah Wanamaker.
Cedarcrest’s Brooke Chapman was sent to the line and made two free throws with 10 seconds left.
Down by two points with eight seconds on the clock, it was South Whidbey’s turn again. Lindsey Newman fired the ball to Cayla Calderwood who quickly forwarded it to the only Falcon in the clear — Wanamaker.
She in turn dribbled down the sideline, aimed and threw.
As the ball reached the top of its arc, the buzzer sounded: Game over.
Ah, not quite.
Wanamaker’s three-pointer was a line drive off the wood — it caught nothin’ but net and the girls won 55-54.
Erikson Gym exploded with cheers.
“It was like a movie with everyone coming down onto the floor,” recalled junior Samanatha Pope.
It all happened so fast, it was hard for Wanamaker to recall the details.
“I had the ball from Cayla, one girl tried to foul me but I knew I had to get it up there,” she said. “I wasn’t watching the clock.
“I remember sitting on the bench earlier thinking, ‘We can’t lose this game.’ The shot was a big payoff for me, to make me feel I was really a part of this team, that I contributed,” Wanamaker said.
One Cedarcrest player was overheard saying that it was “a lucky shot that won the game.”
She couldn’t be more wrong. The win was the result of many hours of hard work by a first-year coach and every member of the Falcon squad.
“It was a team win, absolutely,” Wanamaker said.
At the half, Cedarcrest led 21-20, with Newman accounting for 18 of 20 for South Whidbey.
Lady Red Wolves Jackie Taylor and Chapman heated up the boards in the second, but were met with fierce resistance by Lauren Sandri, Calderwood, Johnson and Pope. Seniors Natalie Martinovic and Meagen Rawls showed some good moves as well, giving the Falcons a little height and speed when needed.
Chantal LaChaussee and Wanamaker combined for solid man-to-man coverage that added to the Falcon’s patented cluster defense and severely cramped Cedarcrest’s prowess in the paint.
Ahead by three at the break, with the girls ramping up their timing and making shots, it looked like the Falcons could power through to a win.
But then they seemed to implode.
“Fight for it,” Pope pleaded from the sidelines.
Cedarcrest inexorably moved past the 50-point mark — a trey followed by a quick rebound gave them a fast five — and “we had us a basketball game,” Pope noted dryly.
With 29 seconds left, a triple shot from Sandri to Pope then Calderwood put South Whidbey behind by just one.
No one was leaving the gym or even thinking about it.
Then Johnson was fouled, and…
“Putting Teah in was a gut feeling on my part,” Pope said. “I felt this was her time, she earned it.”
And she made the most of it.
“That game was really exciting; I was really happy for Teah,” Newman said. “All of us fought hard all night and it was fun to have it end that way.”
Though she was high-scorer, Newman always expects more of herself. “Yeah, I can get pretty fired up out there.”
Newman finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Calderwood had four points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and one nice pass to Wanamaker.
Now 6-4, the girls are behind Granite Falls and Archbishop Murphy for the 2A playoff slot; they welcome ATM for their final home stand Feb. 13.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.