By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- If Skyline boys basketball coach Sonny Dyke puts together a highlight tape for his players at the end of the season, several segments might feature Tuesday night's game with Fauquier.
There would have to be a few minutes on how to create panic with pressure defense, which the Hawks did all over the floor to force the Falcons into 14 fourth-quarter turnovers.
There might also be a few clips of forward Luke Pingley, in a scoring slump for many games, busting out for eight points in the fourth quarter and a team-high- tying 15 for the game.
To top it off, there was the comeback from five points down, against a quality team, with 1:49 left to play. Skyline scored the game's last eight points and beat Fauquier 52-49 to win its second straight game and for the third time in its last five.
"To me our kids, if there are two things they do [very well], it's that they play hard every night and they are very resilient," Dyke said.
A month and a half of coming up short has helped Skyline (4-10) build through adversity. Only Pingley and Cliff Woodard had extensive experience coming back from a team that advanced to the Region II, Division 3 semifinals last season. But a one-point road win at Millbrook on Jan. 15 and last Saturday's breakaway fourth-quarter (26 points) against arch-rival Warren County have helped the Hawks generate energy to finish out and win close games.
"It shows how much we have improved," Skyline guard Cameron Taylor said. "We're finally starting to pick up and get some wins."
Against Fauquier (8-6), Skyline had to mount several comebacks. Woodard, who also scored 15 points, capped an 8-2 run with a strong drive to the basket with 2:25 left to tie the game at 44. But four seconds later, Fauquier's Tyler Lamper (game-high 20 points) got in the lane and hit a twisting jumper and was fouled. After Lamper completed his three-point play, the Hawks missed three shots and Darius Stanford (13 points) scored off his drive to send the Falcons' lead to 49-44 with 1:49 left.
Two free throws apiece from Pingley and Zach Dove got Skyline back within a point with 1:28 left, and the Hawks got the ball back when Dove drew a player-control foul on Stanford with 1:22 left.
That set the stage for Pingley. Coming off a two-point game (1-for-7 shooting) in the Warren County win, Pingley still had not established much of an offensive touch against the Falcons early, scoring just two first-half points. But Pingley made both of his shots in the third quarter and scored five points, then hit his first shot in the fourth and was fouled. He completed the three-point play, then scored three more late for the Hawks' biggest points of the game.
Freeing up around the top of the key, Pingley drained a 3-pointer with 1:06 left for a 51-49 lead.
"I hit shots early then I felt like I could hit some more," said Pingley, who made 5-of-9 shots from the field and all three of his free throws.
From there, Skyline's defense closed out a terrific effort. Having a hard-time beating Skyline's pressure, Lamper lost the ball to Taylor at midcourt with 34 seconds left. Four seconds later, Lamper was gone with his fifth foul.
"We started [the fourth] with full-court man [defense] and that really brought the intensity up," Taylor said. "We came together as a team. I think the full-court man rattled them a bit. They can really control the ball for a long time with one possession, eat up a lot of clock, so I think that got them out of their rhythm a little bit."
Fauquier got a break when Joey Neidigh missed both ends of a two-shot foul, but Stanford dribbled into heavy traffic and Pingley knocked the ball loose, which Taylor recovered with 14 seconds left. Taylor hit the second of the two-shot foul to make it 52-49.
"We just got a lot of steals [Skyline had 15, to only two for Fauquier] -- they really couldn't handle the pressure," said Pingley, who also had a team-best nine rebounds and added three steals. "We played really hard in the fourth. That was our whole goal, to play smart and hard. And that's what we did in the fourth quarter."
Fauquier twice called timeouts, once at midcourt and the second, with seven seconds left, when Falcons coach Wayne Brizzi was trying to determine what defense the Hawks were in. After the second timeout, the Hawks made one more defensive stop, closing off all areas for Fauquier to drive and forcing Garrett Diehl to heave a tough 3-pointer that hit the rope at the top of the backboard and fell harmlessly away as the buzzer sound.
Though it closed things down well at the end, Skyline had trouble stopping Fauquier's fleet backcourt from creating good opportunities. Trailing 19-18 at the half, the Falcons made their move in the third behind Lamper and Stanford. The duo had torched Evergreen District co-leader Liberty on Saturday to provide an upset win for Fauquier, and their ability to knock down shots helped spark a 9-0 run and 30-24 lead for the Falcons in the third period against Skyline. All nine points came off of 3-point baskets, the final one when Diehl rebounded and kicked out the Lamper, who drained one of his four 3-pointers in the game.
"They're a really hard team to defend," Dyke said. "Most of our defensive woes the first three quarters were mental things. In the fourth quarter, we decided we were going to pick up full-court a little bit, just to see what would happen."
Fauquier outscored Skyline 18-12 in the third, with Stanford (nine points) and Lamper (seven) combining for all but two points, to lead 36-31 heading to the fourth. The Falcons were still up six after a Lamper drive with 5:08 left when Skyline made its first significant comeback.
The Falcons, who had just nine combined turnovers through three periods, also got 10 points from center Alan Marchese.