By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Sherando's boys basketball team took a few lumps during the non-district portion of the schedule.
Skyline administered plenty during its non-district slate.
On Friday night, it seemed Sherando's hard knocks proved the better preparation as the Warriors snuffed any drama with a crushing run to open the game on the way to a 77-47 victory over the homestanding Hawks.
Sherando (9-4, 3-0 Northwestern District) has looked plenty impressive in district play this season, perhaps never more so than against Skyline (11-3, 0-2 Northwestern).
Flashing dazzling balance, the Warriors worked the inside, the outside and most places in between as they reeled off a 15-2 run to open the contest.
"It was a great start for us," Sherando coach Garland Williams said. "We had some guys that shot the ball very well. Tanner Ruths shot the ball really well. I thought John Harrell shot the ball really well. Taylor Loudan did a good job running the offense, getting the ball to the right people. Demontay Harrison did a good job rebounding. So a lot of things worked out very well in our favor tonight."
Williams forgot to mention leading scorer Aaron Miller, an understandable oversight considering the Warriors' complete effort. But the senior guard did his share of damage as well, converting the game's opening basket on a layup off his mid-court steal and draining a mid-range jumper to open a 13-0 steak that took less than three minutes. Ruths followed with a 3-pointer, the 6-foot-5 Harrison scored inside, Harrell canned another trey and Ruths struck again from beyond the arc to put the Warriors up big by 13 with 3:28 to go in the first quarter.
The Hawks didn't fare much better in the second quarter, as Sherando outscored them 22-10 during that stretch to secure a commanding 39-18 halftime lead. Again, the Warriors showed an inside-outside game that was tough to contest.
"They're a skilled basketball team," Skyline coach Jacob Bates said. "Press out on their shooters, and they'll do their best to blow by you. They read and react and defense as good as any team we've seen this season, if not better than any team we've seen this season."
Skyline did show some life in the third quarter, paced by senior guard Kylmen Breeden (game-high 20 points).
Trailing by 20 at 46-26, the Hawks put together a 9-0 run as Breeden scored seven straight points and Marcus Turner capped it with an offensive putback.
The Warriors regrouped, ending the third quarter with six straight points to stretch their lead back out to 17 and effectively end Skyline's hopes for a district victory.
Harrison, a transfer from Killeen, Texas, who has been eligible for about a month, gave the Warriors an imposing presence under the basket. He nearly had a double-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocks.
"He is a tremendous complement to their team," Bates said. "They already had a really good team, and to bring in a tall athlete like that, a guy who looks like he knows how to play the game, that would complement any team."
Harrison, a senior, thinks he's fitting in nicely at Sherando and said a focus on team defense was a key factor in the lopsided win. Sherando forced 18 turnovers while surrendering only 10.
"I think it's based on our defense," Harrison said. "Coach stresses that a lot -- defense is the key to winning. Never rest on defense. You can rest on offense, a little -- a very little -- but you never rest on defense."
Sherando's shooters certainly did their part, as well. Ruths (17 points) buried five 3-pointers, Harrell (10 points) and had a pair. Miller tallied 15 points, and Isaiah Williams came off the bench to provide a spark on defense and on the scoreboard with 11 points to give Sherando five double-digit scorers.
"I'm not saying that we're a 3-point shooting team, but we work on them," Garland Williams said. "They were open, and we were very fortunate that they went down tonight."
Bates said the Hawks will go back to work and regroup. After all, the district season is still young and Skyline has plenty more tough matchups ahead.
"They're a great team, and to beat a team like this -- even though it wasn't a boatload of turnovers, they have to minuscule in a game like this," Bates said. "You have to convert your layups, you have to convert your mid-range shots when you get them."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at (540) 465-5137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org