By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline held off a feisty Liberty squad in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's boys' basketball matchup to mark the Hawks' fifth win to start the season while remaining undefeated with the 52-48 victory.
"Credit us with getting the lead and holding it for the entirety of the game, but credit Liberty with not backing down and getting back into the game," Skyline coach Jacob Bates said. "They did a good job of knocking down shots at the end, and fortunately for us we gave the effort that was needed to get the victory."
After leading from the opening basket of the night, the Hawks led by as much as 13 points during the fourth quarter before the Eagles stormed back behind the hot hands of Aaron Patterson and Brendan Smith.
The pair combined for five 3-point baskets during the final period, helping pull Liberty to within three points when the final minute began to wind down. Ramping up the defensive pressure, the Eagles forced Skyline to handle the ball with extreme care.
Leading 48-45, Hawks senior Hunter Stewart went to the free-throw line after an Eagles foul put them into the bonus. With a one-and-one opportunity, Stewart sank both foul shots to extend the lead to five. But the Eagles quickly responded when Smith knocked down a shot from behind the arc in the left corner to cut the deficit to 50-48 with 28 seconds remaining.
Bates called a timeout to ensure the team was prepared to handle the expected pressure from the Liberty defense with a critical offensive possession.
Coming out of the break, the execution by Skyline was flawless. An inbounds pass to Dayvon Haight was received, and then Haight tossed the ball back to Jerrius Baltimore in the backcourt. With the Eagles defenders swarming, Baltimore relayed the ball to Kylmen Breeden, who found Aaron Jeremiah undefended in the front court for an easy lay-in to make it a two-possession game with time running out.
Liberty attempted to quickly hurry down court, but an errant shot was rebounded by the Hawks, who then let the time tick off the clock and secure the victory and give the Eagles their second loss in as many nights.
"Every team that we play is going to give their all against us and try to give us that first loss," Bates said. "The more we play in games like this, the better we will be prepared and ready to respond."
Breeden was the catalyst for the Hawks in their quick start, notching two quick steals leading to easy baskets as Skyline employed a full court, pressure defense to start the game. After the first minute of the game, the Hawks led by six to set the pace for the night.
"It's easy to share the ball on this team because we have lots of scorers," Breeden said. "This type of game was a different environment for us, but we knew they were going to pressure us at the end. We played Broad Run the other night and they ran the press against us almost the whole night, so we knew what we needed to do to break the press and we were able to execute and get the win."
Breeden contributed in nearly every aspect of the game -- rebounding, steals, assists, and scoring. The senior was tied for the team lead in scoring with 10 points, but was a larger factor for his team than that.
"Kylmen is a great defender and a great athlete," Bates said. "He has great vision on the court and does a good job of finding his teammates. We don't really have any selfish players who want all the credit with scoring. They are more worried about doing what it takes to win, and he displayed that tonight."