By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- With the score knotted at 46 and less than two minutes to play, both teams looked for someone to step up. After Clarke County missed an open jump shot, Skyline junior Oshene Kelly grabbed one of her game-high 24 rebounds and Skyline took possession.
"We had our chances tonight," Eagles coach Tim Lawrence said. "We had a good shot with the game tied, but it didn't go down. You have to give Skyline credit for hitting the shots when they needed to."
The Hawks moved down the court and as they spread the ball on the offensive end, they found that someone that they were looking for. Melissa Thomasson took a pass just inside the perimeter, dribbled toward the basket, and then drained a jumper to give her team a two-point advantage with just over a minute to play.
Seconds later, teammate Taylor Henry extended the lead with a score forcing the Eagles to foul after failing to convert on the offensive end. Thomasson was sent to the line on two separate occasions, and although she wasn't perfect, she proved to be clutch as she added a pair to set the final score and give the Hawks a hard-fought 52-46 victory over the Eagles.
"There was a lot of contact in tonight's game," Hawks coach Jim Kenney said. "Our girls hung in there and did a really good job down the stretch. [Jenny] Norman is a freshman and she played very well. We did a much, much better job from the line tonight, and Thomasson made some key shots for us after they tied the game."
Clarke County started the night with a quick jab as it took a 7-0 advantage to start the game. A 3-pointer from Kasey Canterbury was sandwiched by a pair of buckets to begin the run.
After falling behind to start the game, Skyline called a timeout to regroup. The Hawks then went on a 9-0 run to grab the lead, which they would only relinquish once more in the entire game.
"They did a good job from the line and they were tremendous on the boards," Lawrence said. "Kelly nearly matched our entire team with rebounds. That was a big difference in the game tonight. Most of the time we were one shot and we're done on offense, and that's tough to go up against."
The Hawks would use a stiff defense to force Clarke out of its comfort zone and relegate the Eagles to often taking difficult shots. Pressure defense from Henry and Norman allowed the Hawks to score in transition and extend their lead to as many as six points in the second quarter.
"Our defense was good tonight," Kenney said. "We did a much better job than we did last Friday night. We still have some things to work on after that first rotation, but they played well. We were able to hold [down] a heck of a shooter in Canterbury tonight."
Clarke battled back behind Thomasson, who helped pull the Eagles to within two points before intermission when she followed teammate Shelby Brown's missed free throw attempt.
The Eagles continued to battle after the half as Katlyn Monroe scored six points in the third, keeping Clarke within striking distance as it entered the fourth quarter.
Monroe tied the game at 41 as the fourth quarter began, and the Eagles took the lead with 2:07 remaining in the game when Logan Johnson followed her own miss with a bucket.
On the next possession down the court, Kelly was fouled while shooting and connected on one of two shots from the foul line to start the final showdown on the night.
"We knew we were not going to beat Clarke's pressure defense off the dribble," Kenney said. "We had to pass, and I think the girls worked really well with that. I knew I would be pleased with whatever the outcome because our girls gave a terrific effort. It's nice to get the win though."