By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline High School senior Jenny Norman had a little interior monologue going earlier this week, and it went something like this.
"I've been dormant for a few games," Norman said. "I think I just finally sat myself down and said, 'Look, you've got to do better. That's it, and not be afraid and not overthink it.' I think that's what I do a lot, is overthink my moves and put a lot of pressure on myself."
Norman was feeling more at ease, that much was obvious, in Friday's Northwestern District matchup against James Wood. Her double-double, combined with solid scoring nights by teammates Shayne Clifton and Quinn Breeden, helped the Hawks rally for a 54-53 win over the visiting Colonels.
Norman finished the night with 13 points and 11 rebounds, her best game of the season.
"I hope that's a sign of things to come because she was huge for us," Kenney said. "She hit some big free throws there late, just a rebounding machine tonight and scored."
Skyline (3-10, 1-1 Northwestern) by 13 points with 3:01 to play in the third quarter, and all signs were pointing to another loss to James Wood (9-3, 0-2 Northwestern) which won in an earlier non-district tournament matchup this season.
But when the Hawks turned up the pressure, the Colonels began to falter. Skyline forced a handful of turnovers to spark an 8-0 run whittled the deficit down to four points on Breeden's baseline drive with 52 seconds left in the quarter.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Hawks came up with a 12-0 run to grab the lead. Clifton started it with a jumper and ended it with another that put the Hawks ahead 49-43 with 2:45 to play. A senior forward, Clifton finished with a game-high 18 points and added seven rebounds.
"We tried to speed them up a little bit and it worked out for us," Kenney said. "They adjusted to it eventually, but we were able to get that 8-0 run and I thought that was huge for us."
James Wood bounced back as Danielle Rizzari (11 points) drained a 3-pointer and Brooke Nesselrodt hit a free throw to cut the deficit to 51-49 with 1:20 to play. It was still a one-point lead with 12 seconds to play after Rizzari drove in for a layup, and the Colonels went all out on the ensuing press to force a turnover. Breeden and Clifton handled the pressure working the ball downcourt to burn away the final seconds and lock up the win.
"I try to make myself calm and it works," Clifton said. "I'm able to pass it up. I try to stay calm in the last seconds of the game and not get overexcited and it works for me."
Nesselrodt finished with 17 points to lead the Colonels, who went cold from the field after peppering the goal with made jumpers in the first half.
"I think we just didn't play four quarters -- we didn't finish," Colonels coach Krista Crites said. "I think we thought we had them and we didn't put it together, and we didn't hit shots that we were hitting in the first half."
Breeden had 12 for the Hawks.
"We've been playing hard all season," Kenney said. "Shots haven't been falling and we really didn't shoot that much better tonight, but the difference was our aggressiveness offensively. We've been working on it and working on it, and maybe something is finally clicking with them."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>