Slow start proves costly for Skyline

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline’s sluggish start at home against Rock Ridge doomed the Hawks on Tuesday night.

The Hawks found themselves trailing by 15 points by the end of the first period and never got the deficit out of double digits in a 66-49 Conference 28 loss on senior night.

“I wish I could say I was surprised,” said Hawks head coach Jacob Bates, whose team beat the Phoenix by 13 points earlier this season. “As much as we were able to credit our practice and practice habits with some of those tough wins we had, those gritty wins, they haven’t been what they need to be. The intensity hasn’t been what we need it to be for the periods that we need it to be. There are moments, but they are few and far between in our practices. There are no excuses. It doesn’t matter when we last played. We know how to play and we played pretty poorly tonight.”

Skyline (9-8), playing its first game since beating Clarke County on the road on Jan. 22, fell victim to a hot shooting start from the Phoenix.

After a conventional three-point play by Hawks junior Antwan Swain gave Skyline an early 3-2 lead, Rock Ridge (9-8) reeled off a 12-0 run to take a 14-3 lead with 3:10 left in the first quarter. Freshman Ayush Mayur and junior Monteral Jackson capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers.

The Phoenix, who led 21-6 at the end of the first quarter, made 8 of 15 shots in the opening period and shot 47.9 percent (23 for 48) from the field in the game.

“We had been struggling. We had made one 3 over the last 80 minutes of basketball,” Phoenix head coach Jay Geyer said. “Today we got our shooters off and early, a lot of confidence.”

Skyline trailed by as much as 17 points in the second period before Swain’s 3-pointer sent the Hawks into halftime trailing 35-22, but Rock Ridge opened the second half with a 7-0 run that included four points from Jackson to take a 42-22 lead.

Jackson led all scorers with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, and he was one of three Rock Ridge players to score in double-digits, as he was joined by Deontay Compton (17 points) and Mayur (13 points).

“You credit them, they put the ball in the hole, but we were pretty awful defensively,” Bates said. “We were very poor defensively.”

The Hawks made a couple runs in the second half and cut Rock Ridge’s lead to 13 points on two occasions over the final two periods, but couldn’t get any closer than that.

“That thing bounced between 13 and 17 several times and we thought if we could just crack that barrier, get that thing into nine or 10 and just crack the single-digit barrier, that from that point on maybe you start to feel a run, feel some momentum. But we didn’t do it,” Bates said. “The reasons why we didn’t do it were sometimes the same reasons, but turnovers, poor shot selection on our part, and again the way we played defense tonight we won’t win another basketball game.”

As a team, Skyline shot 37.5 percent (18 for 48) from the floor and turned the ball over 15 times.

Senior Brandon Walters, who got in foul trouble early in the first period, led the Hawks with 13 points and seven rebounds. Colin Smith had 10 points, while Brandon Wells had nine points and Swain eight points for Skyline.

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