By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- It was a tale of two halves for Central on Monday night.
After a sluggish first half, the Falcons responded in a big way en route to a 68-50 non-district boys basketball win over Skyline.
"The first half we just didn't play hard," Central senior Travis Cooper said. "The second half we came out and played as a team. We played harder, hustled, got more boards, loose balls."
The Falcons (3-1) trailed 26-24 at the half, but scored almost as many points in the third quarter as they did the entire first half.
Central used an 11-2 run to take a 35-28 lead with 3:11 left in the third quarter. The Falcons had five different players score during the spurt.
Central coach Brandon Shields said the key was coming out and running their offense and getting ball reversals.
"When we get ball reversals a lot of good stuff starts to happen," Shields said. "And once we got a couple they start to get it, and then we really start clicking and that's been the key for us in these last couple games. We've had great stretches where we have reversed the ball, shared the ball, and made plays for each other. And it's been really effective for us."
The Falcons took a 45-36 lead into the final period. They used an 11-3 run to start the fourth period to take a 56-39 advantage. Central junior Sam Barbour scored five points during the run.
The Hawks were able to cut the lead to 58-48 with 2:42 left, aided by a 3-pointer from Jerrius Baltimore and three points byTrayQuan Diamond.
Central responded with a 10-2 run to finish off the game. The Falcons also picked things up on the defensive end in the second half.
"We didn't play with a lot of urgency on the defensive end in the fist half," Shields said. "I thought we took it a little more personally in the second half. I told them it's going to come down to stops. I say all the time to them that if they want to win games that matter -- this is a big win for us -- they have to get stops."
With a young team Skyline is still trying to find some consistency and it was more of the same problems on Monday night.
"We lost some intensity and had far too many turnovers in the second half that were just senseless," Skyline coach Jacob Bates said. "Defensively, we gave up way too many easy buckets."
Diamond led the way for the Hawks with 13 points. Bates said it will take some time for his young and inexperienced squad to find themselves.
"A lot of guys are going to get a lot of opportunities to gain some experience, and hopefully with experience they'll gain confidence," Bates said. "And with confidence they will play better on defense and score the ball better on offense, so we can at least be competitive."
The Falcons had balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Cooper led the Falcons with 17 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. Ricky Neff had 17 points and three steals and Zach Herbaugh had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Barbour had 12 points and seven rebounds. The Falcons got off to a slow start this season due to an extended football season, but have now won three game sin a row.
"I feel pretty good [about the team," Cooper said. "We can give a lot of teams a run for their money this year. We're just playing good team basketball, defense, hustling."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org