By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- In a physical matchup, Clarke County proved to be too much for host Skyline during the second and third quarters en route to a 40-33 victory Tuesday, snapping the Hawks' four-game winning streak.
"We played a poor game, but we were still in it right until the end," Hawks coach Jim Kenney said. "The effort was there tonight, but we just couldn't find that spark that we have had during the last four games coming into tonight."
The Hawks took the lead early behind Oshene Kelly, who scored six of the team's 12 first-quarter points. The lead did not come easy, however, as the Eagles' defense was relentless, using a full-court press to harass the Skyline ball handlers.
"We did a good job of pressuring the ball tonight," Eagles coach Tim Lawrence said. "We really wanted to focus on playing all four quarters of the game, and I think we were able to put that together."
Despite forcing several turnovers, Clarke was unable to convert its opportunities on the offensive end early on. That quickly changed when the second quarter got under way.
The Eagles went on a 15-2 run during the first six minutes of the quarter behind the leadership of Kasey Canterbury. The senior guard started the scoring with a layup in the paint to cut the Hawks' lead to two. Chelsea Nelson gave her team the lead with a 3-pointer the next time down the floor for the Eagles.
"We did a good job with ball movement and keeping them off the boards," Lawrence said. "We executed our offense well and didn't settle for outside shots. I am also very pleased with how we came back on the boards. [Oshene] Kelly and [Jenny] Norman were killing us early on the boards, but we came back and did a very good job of shutting them down and limiting their second-chance shots."
Canterbury proved to be dominant on the glass, grabbing a total of 11 rebounds, and dished out eight assists. She also scored six points during the run to help her team build a 23-14 lead.
"Kacey [Canterbury] is always a spark for this team," Lawrence said. "In addition to her scoring, she finds other ways to get involved and contribute to the team. That's what makes her such a big player for us."
Skyline would not give in, however, as Kelly scored three points and Jenny Norman added three for the Hawks to cut the lead to five points before going to halftime.
Clarke extended its lead in the third again behind the play of Canterbury. After a pass to Logan Johnson for a score, Canterbury connected on a free throw and then sent another assist to Katlyn Mercke. Canterbury then connected on a jump shot to finish off the scoring for the Eagles in the third, and boosted their lead to nine.
The Hawks continued to battle into the final quarter, but had difficulty finding the bottom of the basket. Limiting Clarke to just four points in the final period, Skyline could not take advantage as the Hawks struggled from the field and the foul line.
"We were 9-of-31 from the foul line and shot 31 percent on the night," Kenney said. "It's tough to win like that. Our girls' legs were tired and it showed, but you have to give credit to Clarke. They are a good team and they do what they do well. They spread the floor well and are quick off the dribble, and they were able to get one on us tonight."