Hawks drop opener

Skyline's Antwan Swain jumps to make a pass while Loudoun Valley's Nick Ball defends during first half action Tuesday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Skyline’s boys basketball team knew it was getting a tough first test in its season opener at home on Tuesday night against Loudoun Valley.

The Hawks, looking to rebound after several lackluster seasons, were able to hang with the Vikings for much of the game, but Loudoun Valley eventually pulled away in the second half for a 63-50 win.

“It’s a good test right out of the gate with a proven program like that,” Hawks coach Jacob Bates said. “The positives would be that as much as they mixed it up defensively, we adjusted on the fly. We were prepared as far as what we wanted to run set-wise against their different defenses. We weren’t as pinpoint as we should’ve been in executing some of those sets and it cost us. Two feet, three feet against some of those zones may not look like much watching the game but it’s a big difference between being able to hit passes for layups.

“We have to tighten up a few things, obviously.”

Skyline shot slightly better than the Vikings from the field, hitting 16 of 40 (40 percent) shots, compared to the 38.8-percent (19-49) mark by Loudoun Valley. But the Vikings hit 20 of 33 free throws in the win, making as many as the Hawks had free-throw attempts (10 for 20) in the entire game.

The Hawks did shoot well from beyond the 3-point arc, knocking down 8 of 18 attempts from long range.

“I’m definitely pleased with that,” Bates said. “A lot of that came from … being prepared for what they were going to do defensively. Not only were we knocking down 3’s, but we were knocking down 3’s where we expected to shoot 3’s against that defense.”

Loudoun Valley (1-0) was on the cusp of taking a double-digit lead several times in the second period, but each time Skyline answered, and Colin Smith’s 3-pointer from the top of the arc with one minute left in the first half sent Skyline into halftime trailing 32-26.

“We’re going to try to get after it in man defense and we did that fairly well,” Bates said. “Not quite to the pressure that you’d like to attack. Part of that was fatigue, so we’ve got to continue to condition.”

The Vikings took their first double-digit lead of the game midway through the third quarter after a shot baseline jumper by Nick Bell gave Loudoun Valley a 42-31 lead. Hawks senior Jamal Parker (11 points) did enough for the Hawks to keep that lead from getting any larger, as he accounted for all of Skyline’s nine points in the period.

Skyline closed the gap to nine points after Antwan Swain (team-high 13 points) converted a traditional three-point play to trim Loudoun Valley’s lead to 47-38 with 6:55 to play. But the Vikings reclaimed a 10-point cushion just 20 seconds later and extended that lead to as much as 17 points in the fourth.

Vikings freshman Jalen Williams led all scorers with 15 points and was one of five Loudoun Valley players to score at least seven points in the win.

“It’s nice to come out and compete, but I’d like to think at this point this program is going to take another level and another step, and we’re not just going to accept competing,” Bates said. “We have win these games. … We’re still a few possessions out of that.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com