Diamond sparkles for Hawks

STRASBURG — Skyline High School guard Trayquan Diamond scored seven of his team’s first nine points and the Hawks’ last six Monday to preserve a 65-60 victory over East Hardy (West Virginia) in the consolation round of the Ram Hardwood Classic.

Diamond’s heroics — he tied for the team high 14 points — and his teammates’ 3-point bombing halted a rush of 19 game-ending points for the 0-5 West Virginia school to improve the Hawks’ record to 4-5. The four victories for the Hawks represents twice as many as Skyline reaped in the 2013-14 season.

“We talked about that in the locker room — that this gave us a chance to improve our record and look ahead,” said Skyline coach Jacob Bates.

“I think we have better players — well, maybe not better players, but more experienced players from last year,” Diamond said. “I think that made the difference tonight.”

After he helped stake his team to an early 9-4 lead, it was the 5-foot-11 junior who held steady at the free-throw line to pull out the win.

On the night, the Hawks sank 23 of 26 free throws against the Cougars after going to the line just six times in a 49-36 loss at the hands of Strasburg on Saturday.

“That shows that we were aggressive. We went to the line just six times the other night and that tells me we weren’t going hard to the basket,” Bates said. “We made a point of doing that tonight.”

Particularly aggressive was Diamond, who was held scoreless against the Rams.

“Finger-tips … I just kept thinking about letting the ball roll off my finger-tips,” Diamond said.

He was 6 of 8 from the free-throw line in the game’s last 1:09, which went a long way in keeping his team ahead.

“And we’re on him about the two he missed,” said Bates with a smile.

East Hardy, a spunky team despite its record, trailed by 15 with more than three minutes left in the game.

However, spear-headed by guard Timothy Hahn (game-high-tying 16 points), the Cougars fought back.

Down 56-41, East Hardy outscored Skyline 19-9 the rest of the way. The Cougars were down by just 63-60 on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Hahn with 25.2 seconds left.

But Diamond coolly went to the line with 14.2 showing on the clock and hit both free throws to set the final score.

“[East Hardy] lit me up because they were coming to foul me and I knew I had to answer for my team,” he said.

Diamond made two free shots to give the Hawks a 10-point lead with 1:09 to go. He missed two consecutive at the 50.2 mark and his team ahead 61-54. Then he dropped the final two through to set the final score.

His teammate, Evan Lester (10 points) made a steal. Skyline recovered the ball seconds later. Jerrius Baltimore inbounded it to Diamond as time drained away.

This time, East Hardy refused to foul him.

“I have to give them a lot of credit,” Bates said. “I know their record and everything, but they scrapped hard the whole game. They’re well coached.”

Lester and Baltimore produced four 3-pointers and Colin Smith (13 points) made another, but the Hawks also registered triples of the traditional kind.

Lester drilled two in a row in the second period to expand what was a two-point lead into an eight-point advantage, forcing East Hardy coach Chris Hahn to call a timeout.

In fact, every time it appeared like the Cougars were gaining the momentum,the Hawks answered with a trey of some kind.

For instance, Smith dropped home an old-fashioned 3 later in the second period to expand a Skyline lead to six points.

Reserve Jamal Parker (14 points) stole a pass and fed to Smith for another traditional 3 to improve the Hawks’ lead to eight in the third period.

Then Baltimore, who came off the bench early to give Skyline a shot of energy on the defensive end, drilled two from behind the 3-point line, upping his team’s advantage to 12 with 5:32 showing.

Smith scored two hoops in a row later for the big lead, then East Hardy began to climb back.

The Cougars got 16 points each from Hahn, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, and guard Bryce Strawderman, who at one point scored eight straight for the West Virginia team.

Diamond steadied the winners.

“He wants the basketball at times like that,” Bates said. “They wanted to foul him and he made them when they counted.”