You can call me many things, but The Amazing Kreskin isn’t one of them.
It was back on December 19th, after Tony Miller nailed a clutch free throw with one second left to lift Woodinville past Bothell 71-70, that I took to my laptop with gusto. The gymnasium had been abuzz, the players ecstatic, and yours truly wrote that the game would serve as a "watershed moment for Woodinville basketball."
But instead, the season soon took on water, finally sinking under the weight of 13 consecutive losses. Woodinville finished the campaign at 1-13 in KingCo and 4-16 overall. As team trainer Shan Souza told me with a smirk, "You jinxed them!"
Yes, when viewed from 30,000 feet, it seems like a lost season. But when inspected up close, many hopeful signs emerge for the future.
Of the 16 losses, 6 were within 5 points, and the vast majority of games went down to the wire.
Only two of the losses (Garfield and Issaquah) were blowouts. The bottom line is Woodinville did improve this season from a competitive standpoint.
In retrospect, the roots of this season’s woes start with the December injury to point guard Tommy Wick. While scoring a critical basket in the win over Bothell, Wick landed awkwardly on his foot and fractured two bones in his leg. His prep career was over in an instant, and the young Falcons were left to fend without their floor leader.
"At times we lacked that senior leadership that can’t be replaced," Woodinville’s 2nd year coach Mark Folsom said. "Tommy Wick was someone that everyone leaned on. We became a team that had to find a new identity. There was a level of comfort in having Tommy there. That gave us the confidence that we could go in and really compete with anybody. If you look at the losing streak, there were only a couple games where we didn’t compete. For all the other games, we were right there. In the heat of battle it can be easy to lose sight of that fact."
The toughness of the team showed itself in its darkest hours, Folsom said.
"As a staff, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our guys came in to practice and approached every single game as if we were competing for a championship. Literally every single day. We never saw a letdown in practice, and our kids continued to compete and fight. This was a resilient group of kids."
Plenty of talent returns for the 2014-15 season. Senior-to-be Zack Oates was just named Honorable Mention All-KingCo, while Tony Miller was named 1st team All-KingCo. According to the team website, Miller is the first Falcon ever named to KingCo’s first team. He will be a junior.
"We lost four seniors," Folsom said. "We lost Jay Wyrick, Peter Lemke, Tommy Wick and Payton Tirrell. But we’ve got a core group of returning guys: Ryan Gregor, Zack Oates, Mitchell Jones, Tony Miller, Noble Cooper and Lance Coomar. A returning group that gave us valuable minutes this year. Having a year of varsity experience under their belts will be good.
"It comes down to understanding that every single possession is so important on both ends of the floor," he said. "That understanding comes with experience.
" I think the one thing they can all take from this year is that their coach always talked about valuing the basketball and every possession and to make sure that we maximize those throughout every game. We will be better for it next year. This season was a learning experience for us all —coaches included."
With this year in the books and next year’s on the horizon, I look at the jaw-dropping talent of Tony Miller and the emergence of Zack Oates, plus a gritty supporting cast, and I must don my Carnac the Magnificent hat and toss out this little gem: The Woodinville Falcons will be winners next year.