Boys basketball: Wolves win as Smith sinks winner at buzzer

A stingy defense and Ian Smith’s offensive heroics boosted the Coupeville High School boys basketball team to 44-42 win over South Whidbey Tuesday, Jan. 25, in Langley.

Smith’s off-balance three-pointer a tick before the final buzzer provided the winning margin in a game that was a big win on several levels for the Wolves.

It was a win over the rival Falcons and helped get some revenge after a close loss to South Whidbey earlier in the season. It was a victory over the Cascade Conference’s first-place team and ended the Falcons’ 10-game winning streak. And, most importantly, the win gives Coupeville some needed confidence and momentum heading into the final stretch of league games and the beginning of the district tournament.

Coupeville’s win dropped South Whidbey (8-2, 12-4) into a three-way tie with Cedarcrest and Archbishop Thomas Murphy for the Cascade Conference lead and lifted the Wolves (3-7, 4-11) into a three-way tie for fifth with Lakewood and Sultan.

Twice the South Whidbey game appeared to be get away from the Wolves.

The Falcons went on a 10-4 run top start the second half and led 31-21 with 4:13 left in the third quarter. A 10-point deficit with a quarter-and-a-half to go is hardly insurmountable but was daunting considering the Wolves had just 21 points at that point.

Coupeville didn’t panic and kept to its offensive plan, which was to get the ball inside.

Coach Randy King said, “We thought we could beat them inside, either with the pass or on the drive.”

The Wolves also needed to continue to hold it together defensively. Using a variation of a box-and-one defense to stymie the Falcons’ offensive ace Riley Newman, the Wolves limited South Whidbey to few good looks the rest of the way.

Coupeville went on a 15-5 run, and per the offensive plan, fed the ball to post Hunter Hammer, who scored eight points in the spurt. The Wolves tied the score at 36 with 2:50 remaining.

South Whidbey recovered and scored six straight points, and, for a second time, it appeared Coupeville was finished as it trailed 42-36 with just 59 seconds left.

Smith will be most remembered for his game-winning shot, but it wasn’t his only clutch bucket. After a Falcon turnover, Smith drained a three to trim the lead to 42-39 with 38 seconds remaining.

South Whidbey committed another turnover and Smith was fouled with 29 seconds left. The senior guard calmly drained two free throws and it was 42-41.

Coupeville fouled T.J. Russell with seven seconds left. Russell missed the free throw and the Wolves’ Tyler King raced the ball up court. It appeared Coupeville wouldn’t get a shot off when King was trapped. He, however, slipped a pass to Smith.

Smith, knowing he didn’t have time to set up for a jump shot, threw an off-balance, lunging shot that banked off the backboard and in for the win, much to the delight of a large, supportive Coupeville student section clad in “blackout” T-shirts.

Smith finished with 16 points to lead Coupeville. Hammer had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Tyler King scored seven points and handed out five assists. Ben Hayes had four points and Nevin Miranda three.

Coupeville, with Dalton Engle, Miranda and Smith taking turns on Newman, “limited” the league’s top scorer to 21 points.

Coach King said, “The kids did a good job of doing what we wanted to do; they executed well. Things went well at the end; the kids kept their composure.”

Coupeville entertains Cedar Park Christian in a nonleague double-header Thursday, Jan. 27. The girls varsity game begins at 4:15 followed by the boys.

The Wolves host three of their four final league games, beginning with Granite Falls (1-9, 1-15) Friday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m.

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