By Dennis Atwood -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK - The Skyline Hawks led the host Central Falcons only twice in their non-district boys basketball match-up Saturday night.
The Hawks first lead was 3-2, at 5:35 in the first quarter. Their second lead was with seven seconds remaining on the game clock when senior guard Dayvon Haight hit the game-winning three-pointer, enabling the Hawks to pull-out a 51-49 win.
With the last-seconds victory, the Hawks (9-1) bounced back from their first loss of the season, 68-66, in overtime to Kettle Run Friday night after opening with an eight-game winning streak.
The loss extended Central's (3-6) losing streak to four games, including a 56-54 overtime loss against George Mason on Tuesday.
Haight sank the decisive trey from the right corner. It was only his second bucket of the contest, following a two-pointer for Skyline's first tally of the second half.
"I like the corner a lot, especially when I'm that open," Haight said. "We ran that play a couple of times before and we saw that my guy was sagging when I cut through, so Coach knew that I'd be open and had confidence in me that I'd knock the shot down.
"Last night's loss was very tough. We wanted to come out here and get a 'W' before the [holidays] break, before we start district play [January 8 against Handley, after two more non-district games]."
Haight's opportunity arose after Central junior guard/forward Travis Cooper, the game-high scorer with 22 points, committed a traveling violation, after dribbling the ball across half-court, with 15.8 seconds remaining.
"Travis wants the ball in his hands, and in that situation, that's what we want." Falcons coach Mickey Clinedinst said. "Hopefully we would get a foul called. They made their plays in the end, and we didn't make some free throws we should have. If we had made the free throws we wouldn't have put ourselves in that position."
The Falcons had a 25-19 lead at the half.
Hayden Bauserman netted a trey 45 seconds into the third quarter, his only field goal on the night, to give Central its largest lead of the game, 28-19.
Central held a 37-31 at the end of the third, then the Hawks outscored the Falcons, 20-12 in the final frame.
The Hawks turned up their defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, employing a full-court press, and trapping man technique, that disrupted Centrals' offensive flow and the Falcons often struggled to complete in-bounds passes and were frequently in tight traps in the right sideline, mid-court corner.
Cooper's last made basket was a lay-up with 2:42 remaining to give the Falcons a 48-44 lead.
Cooper was 7-for-10 on two-pointers, 5-for-7 on free-throws, and 1-for-4 on treys.
"[At the half] we were feelin' good, we came out a the beginning of the game stressing hustle," Cooper said. "We've been losing games because of lack of hustle.
"We wanted to out-hustle them, and we did that. They just wore us down at the end. We got a little tired and made mental mistakes and got sloppy."
After going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc earlier in the contest, senior forward Kylmen Breeden knocked down an eight-footer, his only deuce of the game, to cut Skyline's deficit to 48-46, with 2:30 remaining. Breeden finished with a team-high 15 points.
After Breeden missed a lay-up and Richard Neff (11 points for the game) missed a three-point shot for Central, Breeden fed an assist to Casey Stewart (nine points on the night), who netted a field goal to knot the score at 48-48, with 1:34 on the clock.
With one minute to go, Breeden appeared to tie-up the Falcons' Wyatt Hitt near mid-court, but instead of a held-ball call, Breeden was whistled for a foul and Hitt made the front end of the two-shot trip to the charity stripe to give Central a 49-48 lead.
Cooper fouled Breeden on a lay-up attempt at 54.3 seconds left, but Breeden whiffed on the two free throws.
Central's Eric Semones missed the front end of one-and-one opportunity with 38 seconds remaining and Breeden was unable to get a lay-up to go down with 25 seconds left in the contest.
On the Falcons' ensuing possession, Cooper got the in-bounds pass and negotiated the Hawks' full-court press across the half-court line before he took one step too many and was whistled for Central's 14th turnover of the game.
Haight then sank the trey that sank the Falcons, and Semones' desperation mid-court heave was wide of the mark as the game-over buzzer sounded.
Skyline shot better from beyond the arc, 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) than they did on two-pointers (14-for-31, 45.1 percent) and free-throws (5-for-11, 45.5 percent).
The Falcons were a remarkable 16-for-27, 59.2 percent on two's, but only 50 percent on freebies (8-for-16), and 27.3 percent on three's (3-for-11).
It was the Hawks' third road game in four days.
Skyline administered a 55-29 thrashing of the Falcons in their season opener, taking advantage of Central's deep postseason football run.
Starters Hayden Bauserman and Travis Cooper, along with teammate Zach Herbaugh, missed two weeks of hoops practice when the football squad advanced to a school-record third round of the gridiron playoffs.
"Our kids played their behinds off," Clinedinst said. "It's a shame we didn't come out on top. You've gotta give a little bit of credit to [Skyline] because they battled back and hit a shot when they needed it.
"Sometimes you gotta fight through adversity and that makes you stronger. That's part of life. You have to learn from that and make yourself better the next time."