By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- After Sherando's loss to Millbrook on Tuesday, Warriors girls basketball coach Kevin Reed told his team to not let one loss turn into two losses before they faced Skyline on Friday night.
It's safe to say that Reed's message was well-received.
The Warriors bounced back in a big way on Friday, thumping the visiting Hawks, 76-39, in Northwestern District play.
"After our loss to Millbrook on Tuesday -- we were not going to take another beating like that," Warriors senior Morgan Sirbaugh said. "So we came out and we played hard, and we were not going to just roll over."
Skyline (10-4, 0-2 Northwestern) was able to overcome early turnovers to pull within a point with four minutes remaining in the first period on a pair of free throws from senior Taylor Henry, but then things began spiraling out of control for the Hawks.
Skyline turned the ball over on nine straight possessions against Sherando's smothering full-court pressure, leading to a 14-0 run by the Warriors that broke the game open before the opening period came to an end.
Skyline turned the ball over an astounding 16 times in the first period alone, and the struggles against the full-court press became a recurring nightmare throughout the game for the Hawks.
By the time the game ended, Skyline had nearly as many turnovers (37) as points.
"We got outplayed in every phase," Hawks coach Jim Kenney said. "It's my fault. I've got to prepare the girls better to face something like that. Obviously, we weren't prepared, and it seemed like when it started going bad, it just kept going bad."
Sherando (10-4, 2-1) held a 21-8 lead after the first quarter and didn't let off the gas in the second, outscoring Skyline 20-8 in the frame and holding a 41-16 lead at halftime. Sirbaugh erupted for 12 points in the second period to fuel the Warriors' high-octane offense.
Sirbaugh repeatedly took advantage of a Skyline team that was without senior forward Oshene Kelly, who is likely lost for the season with a shoulder injury, by overpowering the Hawks on the boards and using quick spin moves to shake defenders in the paint. Sirbaugh finished the game with 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals.
The Warriors were more than content running the floor against Skyline, as Sherando's 31 steals left little need for half-court offensive sets. The Warriors finished the game with 50 points in the paint, many of which came from layups in transition.
"It's a style that we want to play," Reed said. "[We want to] speed the play up and get some easy opportunities for us and create some space."
Freshman Jessica Hakel had 12 points and nine steals for Sherando, and freshman Heidi Brown had 11 points. Courtney Reid and Allison Boespflug added 10 points apiece for the Warriors.
Henry led Skyline with 16 points.
Sherando may be hitting its stride at just the right time as they travel to Handley on Tuesday for a tough district battle with the Judges.
"We're starting to play consistently better," Reed said. "They're starting to understand the system -- they're playing with confidence. We just want to keep building off what we're doing."