In a comeback thriller, the South Whidbey High School boys basketball team started the district tournament with a 47-46 win over visiting Nooksack Valley Monday, Feb. 10.
“They were playing chess and we were playing checkers,” South Whidbey coach Greg Turcott said. “Once we figured out what they were doing on defense, we were OK.”
The Falcons (16-5) move on to the semifinals and play at Lynden Christian (17-4) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. The Lyncs ripped Sultan 87-53 Monday.
If South Whidbey wins, it will play either King’s or Meridian for the district title at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at Mount Vernon High School.
If the Falcons lose, they will need to win one of their next two games to finish among the top five at district and earn a bi-district berth. The first game would be at home against either Mount Baker or Cedar Park Christian at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13. The second game is Saturday March 15 at Mount Vernon.
South Whidbey 47, Nooksack Valley 46
The Falcons fell behind by as many as 12 points and trailed most of the game.
Down 39-32 going into the fourth quarter, South Whidbey rallied for the win. It still trailed by 5 with five minutes remaining, but went on a 7-0 run in 90 seconds to lead 43-41 with 3:32 remaining in the game.
After Nooksack tied the game at 43, Dexter Jokinen hit the first of two free throws and Carson Wrightson tipped in the miss on the second to put the Falcons up 46-43 with 2:33 left.
The Falcons could have put the game away at the foul line but missed four straight. The South Whidbey defense responded with several stops and a turnover.
Wrightson broke the free-throw miss string when he converted with 16.4 seconds left, making it 47-43.
The Pioneers’ Colby Wichers hit his only hoop of the contest, a three-pointer, at the 3.5-second mark to cut the lead to 1.
Nooksack immediately fouled, and South Whidbey promptly missed both free throws.
The Pioneers called time out and set up a play with 1.6 seconds remaining, but the winning shot was short and the Falcons escaped with the win.
Nooksack Valley led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter and 28-20 at halftime.
“We were down but never buried,” Turcott said. “The kids kept battling; they had confidence they could beat them.”
Nooksack Valley ran a box-and-one defense most of game, playing Sterling Patton man-to-man and making it tough for the Falcons’ sharpshooter to get shots.
Patton calmly turned from scorer to facilitator and led the offense from the point.
Wrightson finished with a game-high 20 points. Levi Buck had 11; Dexter Jokinen 8; and Jacob Ng, Nick Young, Kole Nelson and Patton 2 each.