By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline was able to continue its dominance of the early portion of the boys basketball season on Friday night when it hosted cross-town rival Warren County.
The Hawks were successfully able to attack the Wildcats' defensive press creating quick scoring opportunities, and used their own opportunistic defense to keep the Warren County offense out of sync for most of the game in a 73-58 victory.
Trailing early 3-2, the Hawks went on an eight-point run that started when Nick Helmick found Kylmen Breeden on the perimeter for a 3-pointer. Casey Stewart followed on Skyline's next possession by going the length on the floor with a layup, before later capping the run with another basket on a pass from Breeden.
"We have been practicing and playing against the pressure defense all season long," Stewart said. "We knew they were going to come at us, and we were able to get everyone involved and knock down shots, as well as doing a good job of cleaning up on the boards when the shots didn't fall."
The stretch not only gave the Hawks the lead, but the early deficit would be the only time that Skyline trailed in the game. Another 10-3 run to begin the second period stretched the lead, spurred in large part by the Hawks ability to crash the boards on offense. After a basket by the Wildcats' Matt Nicholson, Skyline went to work on offense.
A shot in the post by Helmick was off the mark, but was quickly gathered by senior Dayvon Haight who followed by finding the net. After Helmick scored on the Hawks' next possession when Haight found him in the post, Helmick showed his rebounding prowess by scoring after Skyline missed shots to score six in a row before Breeden ended the run with a basket.
Despite Skyline having a better offensive performance, Warren County only trailed 35-22 at the half. Looking to get back into the game when play resumed, the Wildcats faltered in large part to their own mistakes in the third quarter. Turnovers allowed Skyline to score quick transition baskets and extend its lead to 22 heading into the final period of play.
"We know they have a different offense and we were prepared to play," Breeden said. "We limited their shots and stressed boxing out on offense and defense. We did a good job of that, limiting their second shots and creating our own offense."
"We showed improvement in our transition passing tonight," Hawks coach Jacob Bates said. "We have been able to do a good job in scoring in transition, but we were able to really step up the passing part of the game tonight."
Warren would not go quietly, however, with Nicholson leading the way. The senior recorded 11 of his game-high 28 points in the final period closing the gap to 13 with about four minutes left to play, but that would be the closest the Wildcats would be able to get.
"We made some adjustments and were taking shorter shifts, and we had a couple good stretches during the second half," Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. "We had two different groups get some nice runs, but we have to be able to string more of that together. It's a matter of time, but it's going to come."
"They are a big, athletic team," Nicholson said of Skyline. "They were playing physical and I tried to take up more of the slack. I took more shots than I might normally take, but I was just trying to help the team."
The win improves the Hawks to 11-1 on the season, but the team knows that the toughest part of their schedule may lie ahead beginning with district opponent Handley on Tuesday.
"Our defense is the pride of this team, and we have only gotten better as the season has went along," Stewart said. "We know though that the second half of our season is going to be the hardest, and we have to go out with our full intensity and give 100 percent every night."
"You want to win every game that you play," Bates said. "It has been a good run to start the season, but we are fully aware that the real season starts Tuesday night, when we play a phenomenal Handley team. And we have to bring our best game when we take the court."