The South Whidbey boys basketball team has nothing to lose this Friday night.
At least that’s how senior Maxfield Friedman sees it.
The Falcons face two-time returning state champion King’s, a team that hasn’t lost a Cascade Conference game in three years. The Knights (15-3 overall, 10-0 in league) also have 6-foot-6 wing Corey Kispert, who is committed to play basketball for Gonzaga, and a slew of physically daunting players to support him.
For the Falcons (7-11 overall, 4-6 in league), the game’s meaning is significant: If South Whidbey beats Granite Falls tonight on the road and King’s on Friday night, the Falcons secure a home playoff game in the first round of the district tournament. It’s also the Falcons’ senior night, and could be the last time seniors Friedman, Kellen Boyd, Anton Klein, Thorin Helmersen, Tyler Heggenes and Cameron Asay play in front of their home crowd.
Tip-off is at 6:45 p.m.
“Nobody’s unbeatable, but they are good,” Friedman said. “They’ve got Corey Kispert, but the rest of their team knows what they are doing. They have good shooters, rebounders and their defense is solid. We’ll have to be on our A-game, bring all of our energy if we want to get a ‘W.”’
Though the Falcons are outmatched by the class 1A powerhouse on paper, South Whidbey knows it can hang with the Knights. In the Falcons’ previous game against the Knights on Jan. 10, South Whidbey trailed by just four points at the end of the third quarter. Turnovers and lackluster offense, as well as a strong fourth quarter showing by the Knights, spelled the Falcons’ eventual 60-37 defeat.
“We have to give a valiant effort,” Friedman said. “Being down only four in the third quarter, that definitely gives us a little bit of a boost.”
Kispert did not play in the Falcons’ previous matchup with King’s. Head coach Mike Washington said there is a chance that he may not play again due to a foot injury.
“They’ve been resting him getting him ready for the playoffs,” Washington said. “If he doesn’t play, it will give us a better chance. If he plays, we still have a chance but it makes it a lot more difficult.”
“To beat them, we have to play really well. We have to catch them on a night that they’re not playing really well. But, it can happen, especially on senior night. If we win Wednesday, there’s so much on the line,” he added.
Boyd said the key to a game when an opponent has a physical advantage is focus.
“You have to be really focused when you start off with a disadvantage like that before the game,” Boyd said. “You have to come into the game focused, knowing what you have to do. In that case, they’re bigger than us so we have to know on defense at all times where their big guys are so we can box them out.”
The Falcons are fresh off a 55-46 loss to Cedar Park Christian on Jan. 27 which put a wrinkle on South Whidbey’s chances of hosting the first round of the districts; had the Falcons won, it could have secured a home playoff game with a win against Granite Falls tonight.
Things are more complicated now.
If Cedar Park Christian loses to Granite Falls in its regular season finale on Friday night, the Falcons secure a home playoff game. Cedar Park Christian beat the Tigers 54-37 on Jan. 10.
If the Falcons win against Granite Falls and King’s, and Cedar Park Christian beats Granite Falls, South Whidbey will host the playoffs on a tiebreaker advantage. The Falcons drew a higher number during a tiebreaker number draw conducted by the league in the beginning of the season, Washington said.