By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando High School junior guard Audra Sites proved she's gotten the message the Warriors' coaching staff has been preaching all season long.
Coach Mike Marsh and his staff want the Warriors comfortable putting up shots at any point in a game -- preferably lots of them. Sites did just that, and her career-high 21 points sparked the Warriors to a 55-42 victory over Skyline in Northwestern District girls basketball action on Friday.
"Coach always tells us we need to just keep shooting because it'll come, and once I hit me first one I felt it," Sites said. "I just kept shooting, and they kept falling. It just got me more confident to keep on shooting."
Sites had just three points in the first quarter, but she heated up in a hurry in the second Her first 3-pointer of the night boosted the Warriors' lead to 15-12 and helped start an 11-0 run that finally ended when the Hawks' Quinn Breeden knocked down a trey with 3:21 left in the half.
Sites drilled two more 3-pointers in the final minute of the half to finish the quarter with 15 points and give Sherando a 31-13 lead.
"I'm pleased with our effort," Skyline coach Jim Kenney said. "I actually thought we played harder than they did, to be honest. I thought we played harder than them, worked harder, but we let No. 10 [Sites] do too much -- she lit it up. We knew she was going to do it. We just couldn't stop her."
Skyline (2-10, 0-1 Northwestern) got its own shooting burst to open the second half, as Shayne Clifton connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to kick off a 9-2 run to open the third quarter. Nikea Whitmore's basket on a press-break pulled the Hawks back to within 11 at 33-22, but then Skyline ran into serious trouble. The Warriors forced four straight turnovers to spur another 7-0 run to push their lead back out to 43-24 with 44 seconds left in the third.
"We hope that our style of being aggressive with our transition game and then the pressure, there will be a point somewhere we can get a couple quick steals, a couple easy baskets and either get into a lead or extend a lead," Sherando coach Mike Marsh said. "That's what we've been trying to do all season, and it's been working for the most part."
The Hawks kept attacking, and were back with 11 on Makaela Dawkins' two made free throws with 3:01 to play. That was as close as they'd get. Kenney said afterward that third-quarter stretch was the one point where Sherando's pressure played a big factor.
Marsh, whose team ran into early foul trouble, was glad to see the Warriors turn up the heat in the second half.
"We started pulling away and they did a good job of fighting to come back," Marsh said. "They made it tough for us. We responded, though, and got a couple good defensive turnovers and got a couple scores off of that and pushed the lead back to where it was comfortable."
Sherando (7-4, 1-1 Northwestern) got a boost from freshman Davina Lane off the bench. Lane finished with 10 points and was a nagging defender from the start.
"Defensively, I think I put good pressure on the ball," Lane said.
"She's got tremendous speed," Marsh added. "We know we put her in the game, we're definitely don't lose any speed -- we probably gain a little bit with her quickness."
The Hawks got double-doubles from Whitmore (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Clifton (10 points, 12 rebounds), plus an 11-point outing from Dawkins. That was another positive, Kenney said, since Dawkins is still just getting back into the regular rotation after missing nearly four weeks with a knee sprain.
"Makaela Dawkins hit some big shots for us," Kenney said. "This is only her second game back."
Heidi Brown nearly added a double-double for the Warriors with nine points and 10 rebounds, plus three blocks. But against the Hawks, Sites had the big night.
"We were trying to look and trying to drag and pop to get open for those kind of shots, trying to open up the 2-3 [zone]," Sites said.
Kenney was pleased with the effort his team gave, especially in the final eight minutes.
"They've got a lot of weapons," Kenney said. "They've got a lot of kids that can shoot, they're fast. I thought we did really well, though. I loved the intensity that we had in the fourth quarter. If we play like that all the time, we're going to be pretty good because there's not a whole lot of teams that we play that are as talented as Sherando."