By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline head boys basketball coach Jacob Bates can expect the Hawks to suffer some early-season struggles considering the severe lack of varsity experience he has to work with on this year's team.
Hawks junior Jerrius Baltimore is the only returning player with any significant playing time at the varsity level, and Bates debuted plenty of fresh faces against visiting Kettle Run in Skyline's season opener on Tuesday.
Skyline's inexperience showed against a senior-laden Cougars squad, as Kettle Run rolled to a lopsided 77-38 win over the Hawks.
"We've got to score the ball a whole lot better than we did tonight if we want to be competitive in these types of games," Bates said. "Kettle Run is a phenomenal team. We knew were going to be up against a good team and we definitely let them get away with that thing earlier than we wanted to."
The Hawks lacked the firepower to keep up with Kettle Run's offense, and Skyline's chances were even further diminished due to a poor shooting effort from the field and erratic ball control.
Skyline (0-1) shot just 9-for-44 (20.5 percent) from the floor in the game and turned the ball over 21 times.
The Hawks continuously struggled to find a rhythm against Kettle Run's half-court man defense, which Bates said relies on denying reversals and keeping the ball on one side of the court. Skyline committed 15 turnovers in the first half alone, which helped contribute to a 40-21 halftime deficit.
"They're a very experienced team. They've been running the same stuff. Just about every one of their players is back, so they're confident and fast in what they're doing," Bates said. "We're the flip side of that right now. We're going to grow and we're going to get better. This was a good test for us, and a good reality check."
Kettle Run (1-0) quickly built a 5-0 lead in the first period and used eight Skyline turnovers to take a 17-6 lead into the second quarter.
Fueled by eight points in the frame from senior Daniel Mattson (13 points), and six points from senior Justus Drakeford, Kettle Run extended that lead to 40-21 heading into the break.
Things didn't get much better for the Hawks in the second half, as Skyline hit just 3 of 25 shots over the final two periods and was held to just six points in the fourth quarter.
Cougars senior Rashawn Latimer helped Kettle Run put the game away for good in the third period, as he erupted for 14 points in the frame to push the Cougars' lead to 29 points. Latimer finished with 26 points before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter after suffering an injury to his right leg.
"[Latimer] did some really good things for them tonight," Bates said. "At times I was really impressed with how well we defended him. Jamal Parker did a great job at times. [Richard] Sanker did a decent job at times, one-on-one and trusting teammates. But when [Latimer's] putting the ball in from 23, 24 feet, and the way he can drive, he's a tough check."
Trayquan Diamond led Skyline with 10 points -- eight of which came from the free-throw line -- and Brandon Walters added eight points for the Hawks.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com