By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- With the game drawing to a close, the ball seemed to find the hands of James Bowens.
Time and again, the Sherando senior weaved through Skyline's defense and got fouled as he neared the basket. Time and again, Bowens received the inbounds pass and the Hawks, finding themselves behind with little time left, had to foul.
For that matter, Skyline did a lot of fouling in Friday night's Northwestern District semifinal and the Warriors were ready to put the game away from the line.
Sherando made 20 of 25 free throws in the fourth quarter -- including 10-of-12 made by Bowens -- to overcome a 10-point deficit and defeat Skyline 66-57 at James Wood High School.
"[Bowens has] been one of our top guys at the free-throw line and we hope he continues that," Sherando coach Garland Williams said. "He's kind of a soft-spoken guy, but we expect him, when things get close, to get to the basket. Good things usually happen when he gets to the line."
The Warriors (10-10) will meet James Wood (10-12) tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the district final. The teams split their two games during the season, each winning on the other's home floor.
Sherando had not played for 15 days when it took the court Friday, and its previous opponent had been the same Hawks that beat them by 11 on Feb. 4 in Front Royal to keep the Warriors from gaining an outright regular-season Northwestern District title.
Skyline got hot outside shooting to lead throughout the first half. The Hawks (8-11) made five 3-pointers in the first half and a trio from long range in the last 2:17 of the second period. Cameron Taylor drained the first bomb then Eli McEathron hit twice from behind the arc to send the lead to 10 with five seconds left. However, the Warriors got a three-point play from Charles Hudnall to beat the buzzer to pull within 29-22 at the half.
Taylor scored 14 points for the Hawks and McEathron scored all nine of his points on 3-pointers before the break.
In the third period, Tanner Wise drained a 3-pointer for Sherando's first lead, 37-35, with 3:29 left. But the Hawks came right back with a 12-0 run, sparked by six of Cliff Woodard's team-best 16 points.
A basket by Taylor had Skyline up by 10 with 7:21 left to play before the Warriors started to get stronger on both ends of the floor. While the Hawks would go nearly three minutes before scoring again, Sherando started to attack the rim and go to the free-throw line at a frequent pace. The Warriors scored 10 straight points to tie the game, including eight free throws.
After Daniel Nichols' free throw tied the game at 53 with 3:37 left, Skyline's Kyle Phillips was called for a technical foul after he got tied up with two Warriors on a loose ball. Bowens hit both free throws to send the Warriors ahead for good.
Sherando had a 55-53 lead and Skyline, which had seven fourth-period turnovers after none in the third, had a pair of giveaways that hurt its chances of gaining another tie or the lead. After neither team scored for two minutes, Sherando center Terry Wood took advantage of a Skyline overplay at the top of the post to swing a pass to Darren Baker in the lane. Baker hit a short jumper after cutting into the lane for a four-point Sherando lead with 1:31 left.
"We just had to run our plays and get to the rack a little bit more," said Bowens, who made 12-of-14 free throws overall on his way to a game-high 19 points. "They were in foul trouble. Coach [Williams] keeps us in check and he keeps us practicing all the time. When the game's on the line, we just try and keep our heads in it."
The Warriors got a brief scare when Woods rolled his left ankle after scoring in close with 2:01 left in the first half. Woods walked off on his own power, but sat out the remainder of the first half. Woods returned at the beginning of the third period and finished the game with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Hudnall also was in double-digits for Sherando with 11 points.
"It's a game of runs," Williams said. "They had theirs and fortunately we had ours at the end."