Winter prep preview / Girls basketball

A large group of returning players mixed with a strong freshman class should push the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team up the North Sound Conference standings this year.

Although the Falcons return seven letter winners, they are still a young team. Among the returnees are only two seniors, Arianna Briggs and Kayla Knauer.

Also back are juniors Sammi Daly, Rachel Harder, Emma Hodson and Ella Wood and sophomore Mary Moss.

Hodson was an all-league honorable mention selection last year.

“Any time you have a lot of returning players with varsity experience, that is going to be a strength,” coach Jeff Hanson said.

Several members of the talented freshman class will vie for varsity playing time, Hanson said.

The group is fast and athletic and features several who can handle the ball, which should help solve one of the problems that plagued the Falcons last year — turnovers.

Which veterans and newcomers earn the majority of playing time is still up in the air, according to Hanson.

“It’s still too early to tell,” he said. “They all deserve a chance.”

He noted that only five or six Falcons will be varsity-only players, and a large group will swing back and forth between the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“It could be January before we figure out our best lineup,” Hanson said. “It will be a revolving door.”

This year’s squad is learning, according to Hanson, and because of the depth, the competition in practice is much better than the past.

Earning a district berth is a goal, Hanson said, as well as improvement — “to see how good of players we can be by the end of the year.”

“We have some of the best kids in the school,” he added. “We want good sportsmanship, be able to compete and learn how to win.”

The Falcons have a tough schedule this year, including games with state power King’s and Bellevue Christian, 3A Oak Harbor and 2A Sedro-Woolley.

“We want to be competitive; we don’t want to be out of it in the first quarter,” Hanson said.

South Whidbey (2-18 last year) starts the year with a pair of road games against the two teams it defeated last year. First is a game at 7:30 p.m. at Concrete (0-19) Tuesday, Dec. 3, and then 6 p.m. at Port Townsend (6-13) Friday, Dec. 6.

The home opener is 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, with Bush (14-7).