Handley takes down Skyline

FRONT ROYAL — In a game of runs, Handley’s were longer and more decisive Tuesday night as the Judges rolled to a 54-38 decision over Skyline in Northwestern District boys basketball play.

The victory for the visitors was their fourth against 12 defeats. They are 2-4 in league play. The Hawks, though they had won four in a row, fell to 8-7, 2-3.

“It’s a reality check for us,” said Skyline coach Jacob Bates, whose team rebounded from an 0-4 start this season. “I won’t know how we respond until we walk out onto the floor in our next game.”

Handley’s record camouflaged the fact that the Winchester school had lost three of its last four games to teams with a cumulative 34-5 record.

“We lost our first nine and, for the most part, they had been close. I think the team responded the way I hoped they would for us. It was a good win because they got us (64-63) at our place,” Handley coach Jason Toten said.

Handley led 14-12 after one quarter, even though the home team turned the ball over five times. In all, Skyline committed 13 turnovers in the first half. Meanwhile, Handley limited its host to just five points in the second period and six in the third.

“We’re the kind of team — we’re not always going to score a lot of points,” said Bates, “so we have to depend on our defense. We didn’t have it tonight. Credit Handley for limiting us on offense, but blame us on the way we played defense.”

Guard Colin Smith (12) was the only double figures scorer for Skyline, while Handley got 10 points from senior KeSean Robinson, a surprising 10 from reserve Cullan Kerner and the same number from Kobe Tigney.

Ahead 12-10 with 2:28 showing in the first quarter, Skyline watched as Handley mounted an 11-0 run to take a 21-12 lead in the second.

Bates called timeout after a Tigney follow. His team had gone more than six minutes without a score.

Then it was time for Skyline to break its slump. With Brandon Walters muscling inside, the center scored three points, followed by a two by Brandon Wells.

Handley turned the ball over on its next possession, but Skyline wasted a chance to pull close than a four-point spread. After the Hawks’ missed opportunity, Robinson scored to end the half at 23-17 in favor of the Judges.

Bates held his team for an long period during the intermission break. Whatever was said apparently worked as Jamal Parker scored four straight, then teammate Antwan Swain knocked in a jumper.

It was 23-22 early in the second half. This time Toten called timeout and the Skyline crowd was getting into the game.

Handley found its resolve after the break and outscored the Hawks, 17-1. Kerner’s 3-pointer beat the third period buzzer for a Handley 40-23 advantage.

Here came Skyline. After being outscored 20-1, Smith hit the first Hawks’ hoop in about 4 minutes, 30 seconds. After free throws by the Judges, Parker netted two of his own. Smith drained a 3 and Evan Lester hit a jumper.

The score was 45-32 Judges with 3:18 left in the game.

Bates put a team of Matthew Burke, Lester, Jerrius Baltimore, Wells and Smith on the floor and they closed to 47-35 with 2:38 remaining.

What was Bates thinking?

“I’ve learned with this team, you never say never,” he said.

Indeed, five of the Hawks’ wins have come by five or less tallies. Of that group, two victories have come in overtime. The last was a fine 49-48 edging of conference rival William Monroe on the road Saturday night.

But it was not to be. Skyline had to foul and Michael Brown made a pair, Will Dearing snared one of two and then Kerner broke the press for a basket and a 52-37 advantage with 54 seconds left.