By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The hole just kept getting deeper and deeper for Skyline's boys basketball team Friday night.
The Hawks, who've struggled to score all season long, faced a daunting task as visiting James Wood kept piling up the points in the first quarter of their Northwestern District matchup. By the end of the first period, the margin was 14 points.
That Skyline (2-11, 0-2 Northwestern) came back in the second quarter to make a game of it was encouraging for Hawks coach Jacob Bates, but getting into that kind of trouble certainly was not. Another burst by the Colonels in the third quarter settled matters as James Wood went on to a 48-33 victory.
"They definitely came out and threw the first blow tonight," Bates said. "We can look at it like we played an even game for three quarters, but I'm not really buying that because we lost on the glass, we lost at the [free-throw] line. Those are the in-game battles that we as a team need to decide that we want to win. And we not only didn't win them tonight, we lost pretty handily."
James Wood (8-5, 2-0 Northwestern) hounded the Hawks into seven first-quarter turnovers, leading to plenty of easy opportunities on the offensive end. Peyton Crickman did the most damage with seven points in the first quarter as the Colonels jumped out to a 16-2 lead by the end of the period.
The Hawks suddenly came to life in the second quarter, outscoring the Colonels 13-4 for most of the period to pull back within five at 20-15 after Jamal Parker's basket on a runner through the lane.
The Colonels answered as Crickman hit a free throw and an offensive putback and teammate Cam Butler sliced through the lane to hit a jumper that pushed the lead back to 10.
Then in the third quarter, James Wood put together a 9-1 run that pushed the lead to 17. Brant Bell nailed a pair of 3-pointers during that run, the last coming with 1:43 left in the quarter to put the Colonels up 39-22.
"(The) third quarter is our nightmare right now," Bates said.
Crickman finished with 12 points and nine rebounds to lead a balanced attack for the Colonels, who used their superior size to full effect by largely dominating the interior.
"The last couple years we've played a really run-and-gun style, and that's not really what we want to do now," James Wood coach Tim Wygant said. "We still want to play up-pace and up-tempo, specifically on defense, but offensively we want to get high-percentage shots."
Parker finished with nine points to lead the Hawks. Skyline played without injured starter Nick LeHew, who probably would have helped in the frontcourt.
"Not much is changing -- I promise you we're working on it," Bates said. "We're not seeing the results."
What we need right now is some consistency from some of our players. We're getting different results from different players on any given night, so it's been difficult to figure out what five is the best combination against an opponent and to go along with that what defense we're going to be best in against them."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>