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South Whidbey drives Wolves from district playoffs
It was like rubbing salt into the wound. It was adding insult to injury. Pick your cliche for discomfort beyond the expected pain…not only did both Coupeville High School basketball teams get eliminated from the district tournament last week, but they were ousted at rival South Whidbey High School in emotional, spirited contests.
The Coupeville girls lost 43-36 at South Whidbey Wednesday, Feb. 6, and the boys fell 56-45 Thursday.
For the girls, the loss not only stung because it was an elimination game and came at the hands of the Falcons, but also because the Wolves led most of the game.
South Whidbey (12-11) stole the come-from-behind win by outscoring Coupeville 19-7 in the final period.
The Wolves (6-16) were as hot at the beginning as they were cold at the end, scooting out of the chute to an 11-2 lead thanks to four points from Hailey Hammer and a three-pointer by Bree Messner.
The Falcons, behind Ellie Green and Annalies Schuster, responded with a 13-4 run that spanned the first two quarters. First they came within five, 13-8, at the end of the first quarter and then knotted the game at 15.
A bucket by Hammer, who scored all of her eight points in the first half, helped Coupeville regain the lead and go into the locker room up 18-15.
Coupeville senior Bessie Walstad dominated the third quarter. She scored nine of her team-high 12 points in the period and pushed her team to a 29-24 lead going into the last eight minutes.
Midway through the third quarter, the Falcons concentrated on getting the ball in Green’s hands and into Schuster in the paint. While the South Whidbey pair worked at getting the Falcons back in the game, the Coupeville offense disappeared.
In the fourth quarter, buckets by Lauren Escalle and Amanda Fabrizi helped the Wolves stay ahead, 33-30, then the Falcons finished the game on a 13-3 run. Another three-ball by Messner was all the Wolves could muster as Coupeville went in a five-minute scoring drought.
Coach David King said, “Our offense just stalled and we couldn’t make any shots.”
The Wolves trailed by five with less than two minutes to go and were forced foul. South Whidbey hit seven of 11 free throws in the quarter to wrap up the win.
The Falcons enjoyed a sizable advantage at the line, sinking 15 of 24 for the game; the Wolves were only one of six.
King said, “We had our moments and just couldn’t sustain our offense for the 32 minutes.”
Messner finished with six points, Escalle four, Fabrizi two, Jai’Lysa Hoskins two and Makana Stone two.
Walstad added seven rebounds, and Stone had six boards and three blocks.
Schuster and Green combined to score 33 of the Falcons’ 43 points.
The boys game was, well, different.
Both teams had a slew of turnovers and neither shot well, but both played with the intensity and passion expected in a rivalry game that determined whether the season would continue.
Then there was the officiating. The play was ragged at times, and the uneven officiating compounded the problem and exasperated the players, coaches and fans from both schools.
The Wolves fell behind early, then rallied late. Their comeback was hindered by three technical fouls, one legit, one suspect and one downright baffling.
But complaining won’t change the result and the Wolves finished their season at 1-21 and the Falcons upped their mark to 5-18. South Whidbey was eliminated from the tournament Friday, losing 66-56 to Mount Baker.
South Whidbey used a harassing, full-court man-to-man defense to cause a cascade of turnovers that resulted in a 12-2 lead.
From there, Coupeville played catch up.
The first quarter ended 12-4, and the Falcons pushed the lead to 11 several times in the second period. With the help of eight points from Ben Etzell, the Wolves trimmed the gap to 26-21 at one point and trailed 28-21 at the half.
Hoops by Nick Streubel and Etzell and three free throws by Wiley Hesselgrave cut the margin to two, 30-28, with 3:57 left in the third quarter.
Then the Wolves were weakened when starters Caleb Valko and Hesselgrave went to the bench with four fouls, and two technicals helped South Whidbey go up 38-32 heading into the fourth period.
The final quarter turned into a free-throw shooting contest. The teams combined to sink 21 of 24 foul shots in the period with the Falcons making 13 of 15. In all, the teams connected on 41 of 59 free throws in the contest.
The game’s final 16 points were all scored from the line.
South Whidbey went up 46-34 with 2:38 remaining. The Wolves hit eight consecutive free throws to go along with an Etzell three to slice it to 49-45 with 42 seconds left.
Coupeville wouldn’t score again and the Falcons drilled seven straight foul shots as the Wolves were forced to foul.
Etzell scored a game-high 18 points, Streubel had 10, Valko six, Morgan Payne four, Hesselgrave four and Joel Walstad three.
Coach Anthony Smith said, “I am so proud, the kids played hard. It was a good, hard-fought game; we just lost it at the end.”
He added, “We turned the corner; better things are ahead.”