By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Sherando coach Kevin Reed's message to his girls basketball squad prior to Tuesday's Northwestern District tournament semifinal game against Skyline was simple -- the Warriors needed to set the tone early.
Reed's message certainly sank in as the top-seeded Warriors, who were fresh off a win over Millbrook on Monday that gave Sherando the regular-season district crown, easily put the game out of reach before halftime in a 73-30 win over fifth-seeded Skyline at Handley High School.
Sherando's offense was well balanced, as every player on the Warriors' roster scored. Even more importantly for Reed, the Warriors finished with 23 assists in the game.
"To me, that's just beautiful basketball. The unselfishness, the spacing on the floor was outstanding, willing passers and everybody was ready to shoot," Reed said. "The shooting was great, the passing was better. The movement was great."
Sherando (13-10), which has already secured the No. 2 seed in next week's Region II, Division 4 tournament, will play No. 2 Millbrook at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the district finals.
Skyline (5-19) had trouble all evening containing the Warriors' offensive attack. Sherando shot an even 50 percent (28 for 56) from the floor, including an 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) mark from beyond the 3-point arc. Reed said the 11 3-pointers is the second-most Sherando has made this season.
Reed wasn't the only one impressed with the Warriors' offense on Tuesday.
"They do it the right way. I love the way they play," Kenney said. "They move, they pass, they set screens, they share the ball, they make good, crisp passes - that's the way I like to see basketball played. As a fan, I love watching them play. I don't like being on this end of it, but I love watching them play."
The game began slowly as Sherando worked itself to a 9-0 lead while holding Skyline scoreless for nearly the first six minutes. Hawks junior Shayne Clifton finally hit a 3-pointer with 2:21 to play in the first period, and Sherando held a 14-7 lead to start the second quarter.
Warriors sophomore Dani Rizzari powered Sherando's offense in the opening frame, scoring all of her nine points in the first eight minutes.
Sherando's offense really came to life in the second quarter, as the Warriors hit their first five shots -- including three treys -- to quickly extend the lead to 27-9 with 5:55 to go in the first half. By the end of the second quarter, the Warriors held a very comfortable 42-17 advantage.
Sherando scored a game-high 28 points in the second period behind five 3-pointers. Sophomore Heidi Brown and freshman Lauren Reed each scored seven points in the frame to lead the Warriors, and Brown also added a pair of blocks and a steal in the second quarter.
"We had a lot of momentum," Brown said of the Warriors' second-quarter outburst. "Once one shot falls then the other ones just keep on going, and that's what gets us on a roll."
Lauren Reed led Sherando with 18 points and six assists, and Brown scored 13 points to go along with five rebounds and three blocks. Freshman Madison Leckie added 10 points for the Warriors.
Juniors Shayne Clifton and Jenny Norman each scored seven points to lead the Hawks.
Kenney said the loss most likely ends Skyline's season despite the Hawks beating Handley in the tournament play-in game on Monday. Kenney is optimistic about what his team can accomplish next season, with every starter returning from this year's team.
"We're just not at [Sherando's] level yet, that's the bottom line," Kenney said. "They just shoot the lights out. The bottom line is that we're just not quite where they are yet. Our goal is to hopefully be able to be that good one day."
Kevin Reed said Sherando is confident and focused heading into Thursday's rematch with Millbrook after winning big in four straight games, all against district opponents.
"I think without a question we have peaked over the last three or four games," Reed said. "We have played at a high level, great intensity, ball movement -- defense has just been excellent even though we've had some spurts where the offense just hasn't been there. We're obviously feeling really good where we are."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org