Big fourth quarter lifts Hawks to win

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline’s girls basketball team struggled for three quarters on Tuesday night against visiting Rock Ridge. But the Hawks came alive in the fourth.

The Hawks outscored Rock Ridge by 13 points over the final eight minutes to break open a close game en route to a 48-34 Conference 28 victory on senior night.

“Coach was telling us that we really needed to pick it up. The team, we were picking ourselves up. We came through,” said Hawks freshman forward Rachel Clifton, who scored 18 of her career-high 26 points in the second half, including 11 points in the fourth quarter.

“I felt excited. I wanted it to be a good senior night with a win. I really wanted that for them.”

Skyline’s (4-13) late surge against Rock Ridge, a first-year school from Ashburn, began at the end of the third period when junior Jakya Jones scored on a stickback at the buzzer to give the Hawks a 30-29 lead. Jones’ bucket started a 13-0 run by the Hawks that included six points from Clifton and another stickback by Jones.

The run gave Skyline a 40-29 lead with 4:45 to play.

“I think they just got mad, maybe a little bit, and just decided to start playing,” Hawks head coach Jim Kenney said. “Much better ball movement in that fourth quarter. Much better aggressiveness toward the end. We actually got some offensive rebounds.”

Skyline, which led by no fewer than 10 points over the final 4½ minutes, outrebounded the Phoenix 32-14 in the second half and held a 55-42 advantage on the boards overall.

Sophomore forward Nikea Whitmore hauled in a team-high 16 rebounds to go along with 14 points, while Clifton had 15 rebounds. Jones had 10 rebounds and six points for the Hawks.

“We were trying to tell them before the game our advantage against this team is to get the ball low,” Kenney said. “I think they finally started to do it.”

The evening began rather sluggishly for Skyline, as the Phoenix jumped out to a 13-7 lead by the end of the first period behind nine points from freshman guard Ashley Dean.

Though the Hawks shot only 25 percent (15 for 60) from the floor in the win, Rock Ridge suffered its own offensive struggles, shooting 22.4 percent (11 for 49) from the field. Rock Ridge’s cold spell from the field in the second period allowed Skyline to slowly chip away at the early deficit by outscoring the Phoenix 10-4 in the second quarter. The Phoenix made only one field goal in the frame as Skyline tied the game at 17-all heading into halftime.

“We haven’t played a game in 14 days. … Yesterday at practice, it wasn’t our best practice of the year and just, for whatever reason – not playing, rusty, whatever you want to call it – we came out very sluggish, really tentative, not really attacking the basket,” Kenney said.

“We finally started attacking the basket, finally started aggressively going after rebounds. Made some free throws, finally.”

Rock Ridge used a 6-0 run midway through the third period to take a five-point lead, as Courtney Veatch, Priyanka Sharma and Julia Horner all scored baskets to give the Phoenix a 26-21 lead.

Skyline answered with two free throws by Clifton – who was 10 for 14 from the line – and a stickback by Whitmore, and Clifton’s own putback with 1:25 left in the third gave the Hawks a 27-26 lead.

A 3-pointer by Veatch reclaimed the lead for Rock Ridge before a free throw and Jones’ buzzer beater sent Skyline into the fourth period up a point.

“I’m real happy with the win,” Kenney said. “That puts us in fairly good shape in the conference.”

Veatch led Rock Ridge with 11 points while Dean had 10. Jasmyne Hinkamp had 17 rebounds for the Phoenix.

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