By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- After a disappointing first half, Skyline came alive in the third quarter to upend Sherando 75-68 on Thursday in the opening round of the Northwestern District girls basketball tournament at Millbrook High School.
"I told the girls at halftime that they have 16 more minutes to wear that jersey this season, and for the seniors they have 16 more minutes to wear it for the rest of their lives unless they really step up in the second half," Hawks coach Jim Kenney said. "Boy, did they respond."
Things won't get any easier for Skyline, which will face undefeated Millbrook today in the semifinals. The Pioneers beat the Hawks 94-45 on Tuesday.
"I know that this might sound a little strange, but we really want to have a shot at them again," Kenney said.
Despite the final score, things didn't look promising for the Hawks through the first 16 minutes of play. The Warriors used the 3-point shot and the free-throw line to pull ahead early. Brooklyn Wilson had three 3-pointers in the first quarter and Taylor Henshaw added another one to hold off Skyline and take a 15-13 lead into the second period.
"You have to hand it to Sherando, they really do shoot the 3-point shot well," Kenney said. "But I was counting on them not being able to sustain that for the entire game."
Although the Warriors did connect on seven 3-pointers for the night, they were never able to use them with the effectiveness that they did in the first quarter. It didn't seem to matter, however, because Morgan Sirbaugh was producing plenty of points for Sherando in the second period.
The sophomore forward scored eight of her team-high 18 points in the period, but her 4-for-4 performance from the free-throw line was even more important. Playing in the post, she was drawing fouls from 6-foot-2 Hawks center Kelsey Corcoran, and that nearly crippled Skyline in the paint.
With the Warriors leading 34-28 heading into the second half and Corcoran in foul trouble, the Hawks turned to backup post player Oshene Kelly for help. Her response changed the nature of the game and gave Skyline the lift it needed to get the lead and hold it.
"We only had three offensive rebounds in the entire first half," Kenney said. "But we turned that around in the second half."
Led by Kelly, the Hawks got 10 second-half offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Warriors 34-26 for the night. That resulted in a lot of second-chance baskets for Skyline and Kelly was the main beneficiary. The Hawks junior scored six of her 12 points in the third period and had 10 second-half points.
"When I came in during the third quarter, I knew that Kelsey had foul problems," Kelly said. "Our entire team really wanted a shot at going to the regional and we knew that we had to win this game to have a chance. I was determined to be the person to help us to do that."
In all, the Hawks had 19 field goal opportunities to the Warriors' nine in the third quarter and outscored them 22-11. With 2:29 left in the period, Kelly scored on a tip-in to give Skyline a 45-43 lead and they never looked back.
"Well, we lived by the 3s tonight and we died by them, too," Sherando coach Tim Davis said. "We also just couldn't seem to get a body on Corcoran inside. She's 6-2 and she's going to out-jump anyone we have, so we needed to get a body on her to block her out and we just weren't able to do that."
Corcoran finished the game with 18 points, but fouled out of the game with 3:46 to play with the Hawks leading 61-52. The Warriors tried to respond with 3-pointers and fouls, but neither strategy worked.
The 3s just wouldn't fall, and Skyline guard Taylor Henry took advantage of the fouls to hit 7-of-9 free-throw attempts in the final moments of the game. Her fourth quarter foul shooting helped her score 22 points for the night.
"You really have to give Sherando a lot of credit," Kenney said. "They played their hearts out for the entire game. We did, too, and the difference was that when it really counted we were able to get our points and they weren't."