Swain’s late free throw lifts Hawks past rival Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline senior Antwan Swain had to take a few extra breaths while at the free-throw line in the closing seconds of Friday night’s boys basketball matchup at cross-town rival Warren County.

With the game tied with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Swain – who had just drawn a foul by driving from the top of the 3-point arc into a double-team in the paint – stepped to the line and watched as his first attempt bounced off the front of the rim. Before taking his second shot, Swain paused for an extra second.

“Took a couple deep breaths. Got the whole county looking at me, so I was pretty nervous,” he said afterward.

In front of a packed crowd inside Warren County’s gymnasium, Swain calmly sank his second free throw, and the Hawks held off a last-ditch effort from the Wildcats to pick up a thrilling 56-55 Conference 28 victory that was tight from wire to wire.

“I was extremely confident in the first one. I thought that one would definitely fall,” Swain said of his first free throw attempt. “But as soon as I missed the first one by a little bit I knew that I just had to put a little bit more on it. I was very confident in myself.”

The Wildcats (2-5) had one final opportunity for a game-winning shot following Swain’s free throws, as a deep inbound pass intended for junior Cam Ford was knocked out of bounds by Skyline’s Brandon Wells on the Wildcats’ end of the court with 2.3 seconds remaining.

Warren County senior Clyde Ritchie hauled in Robert Rutherford’s inbound pass in a crowd on the right wing, but his turn-around, desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was swatted away by Hawks senior TrayQuan Diamond.

The win came at a much-needed time for Skyline (2-3), which was in the midst of a two-game skid and coming off a blowout loss to James Monroe on Wednesday.

“The way we’ve been playing lately, that was a great win,” Hawks first-year coach Jeff Monroe said. “We needed that. Hopefully it’ll get us jump-started now.”

Skyline, which has been suffering from shooting woes throughout the early part of the season, finally got some shots to fall in the second half.

With the game tied 19-19 coming out of halftime, Hawks sophmore Colin Smith immediately gave Skyline a boost by converting a traditional 3-point play after drawing a foul on his baseline floater. A fast-break layup by Diamond gave Skyline a 24-19 lead.

But Warren County answered with its own 5-0 run, as junior Brendan McMackin knocked down a jumper from the elbow, R.J. Keeney hit a free throw and Cam Ford converted a driving layup to tie the game at 24-all with 5:15 left.

The two teams then traded the lead for most of the period as Ford – who finished with a game-high 25 points – scored 12 of Warren County’s final 14 points in the frame before Smith’s floater and 3-pointer right before the buzzer gave the Hawks a 40-36 lead entering the final period.

Smith scored 11 of his team-high 14 points in the third quarter.

Skyline shot 41.2 percent (21 for 51) in the game and 50 percent in the second half while making six 3-pointers over the final two periods.

“We finally hit some shots and that’s been big for us,” Monroe said. “We’ve been struggling from the field, also from the line. I think we shot a whole lot better from the line tonight. You make those things, it makes the game a whole lot easier. I felt like the kids kept on playing hard and stuff. When you’re struggling like we were struggling, that game right there, anything could go one way or the other. Tonight it went our way.”

Skyline held a slim lead for most of the fourth period behind a pair of 3-pointers by Evan Lester before Keeney hit a 3-pointer to give Warren County a 54-53 lead with 1:45 to play. Skyline came back with two free throws from Max Meador to regain the lead before McMackin hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 55-all with 1:04 to play.

Warren County, which hit 18 of 24 free throws in the loss, shot 38.5 percent (15 for 39) from the field. The Wildcats shot 52.6 percent in the second half. Friday marked their fourth straight loss.

Keeney had 10 points for the Wildcats, while Ritchie added seven. Keeney, Ford and McMackin each had five rebounds.

Swain finished with 11 points and five rebounds for Skyline, while Lester and Meador each had 8 points and five boards.

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