Yellow Jackets race past cold-shooting Hawks

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline’s boys basketball team mustered little on offense in the first half of Wednesday’s Conference 28 matchup against visiting James Monroe. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, got up and down the floor.

The result was a 56-27 loss for the Hawks, which dropped Skyline to 1-3 on the young season.

“We wanted to slow it down,” Skyline first-year coach Jeff Monroe said. “And we missed some easy shots – and of course their defense caused a lot of it – but we tried to slow it down. We knew couldn’t go up and down the court with them. They’re a good team, very athletic, so we wanted to be smart. If we could be smart we thought we had a chance.”

The Yellow Jackets’ defense, anchored by 6-foot-5 senior Percy Burt (two blocks) inside, limited Skyline to a 22.5-percent (9 for 40) shooting mark from the field. James Monroe also forced 17 turnovers, turning many of those into fast-break points on the other end.

“I think we talk good on defense,” Jackets interim coach Carlos Evans said. “We always talk about communication is the key and defense comes from heart, so I think they came out and they showed a lot of fight tonight.”

Skyline hung tight with James Monroe (1-2) for the first six minutes of the game, as Antwain Swain’s driving layup pulled the Hawks within 7-6 with two minutes remaining in the first period. But the Yellow Jackets closed the frame on a 9-0 run. Senior Dre’Jon Boley powered the run with 7 straight points – including back-to-back fast-break layups – before he found Burt with a deep lob into the paint for Burt’s buzzer-beating bucket to send James Monroe into the second period up 16-6.

Boley, who led all players with 20 points and 12 rebounds, did much of his damage slashing into the paint.

“I feel like with our size and our athleticism that we can space most teams out in the state,” said Evans, whose team shot 51 percent (25 for 49) from the floor. “… We just feel like if we can spread the floor, just make every guy on their team guard all of our guys I think we have a shot.”

The Yellow Jackets opened the game up in the second period by out-scoring Skyline 17-3 in the frame, taking a comfortable 33-9 lead into halftime.

The Hawks suffered through an 11-minute stretch without a field goal in the loss and shot just 10.5 percent from the floor in the first half. Most of Skyline’s misses came in the paint.

“We missed a lot of easy layups, and against a team like that, you know, you can’t miss easy layups because they’re shooting layups on the other end,” Monroe said. “That’s where teams get momentum and teams go on runs and that’s what happened to us.”

Skyline senior guard Brandon Wells finally broke the Hawks’ cold streak when he connected on a floater in the lane a minute into the second half, and a 3-pointer by Colin Smith and a bucket from the low block by Swain pulled Skyline within 37-16 with 3:50 left in the third quarter. But the Yellow Jackets closed the frame on an 11-2 run and took a 30-point lead into the fourth period.

James Monroe extended its lead to as much as 35 points in the final quarter before Skyline sophomore Ryan Scott scored the game’s final 6 points.

Joe Avington had 12 points for James Monroe, while C.J. Miller added 8 points and six rebounds and DeJon Weldon 4 points and six rebounds. The Yellow Jackets enjoyed a 38-24 advantage on the boards.

Swain led the Hawks with 7 points and six rebounds, while Evan Lester chipped in 4 points. Wells had 3 points and six rebounds for Skyline, which will travel to Warren County High School Friday night for a cross-town clash.

“We’re gonna get better,” Monroe said. “The biggest things is we’ve just gotta come together and come together as a team. I think with the (coaching) change some of the guys haven’t came around to it yet but hopefully they will.”

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

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