Defense ignites Pioneers past Hawks

TrayQuan Diamond gets a hand on the ball as Millbrook's Trammell Anthony goes up to score under the basket during second quarter action on Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily
Skyline's Brandon Wells drives to the basket while Millbrook's Alexander Amos defends during second quarter action on Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily
Antwain Swain is surrounded by Millbrook defenders as he penetrates the lane during second quarter action on Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily
Skyline's Maximilian Meador is double teamed by Millbrook's Nicholis Harrell, left, and Savon Smith, right, during second quarter action on Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline was able to hang tough with Millbrook early in the game Thursday night. However, a switch in Millbrook’s press ignited a big run that changed the game.

The Pioneers used a big second period to pull out a 72-44 Northwestern District boys basketball victory.

“We played with them the first ten-to-twelve minutes, and then we fell apart right there before half and that was the difference, I think,” Skyline coach Jeff Monroe said.

The Hawks stayed even with the first-place Pioneers throughout the first period. Millbrook took an 11-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Trey Braithwaite and two free throws by Alex Amos with 3:21 left in the opening period.

Skyline’s Antwain Swain scored a basket inside, and Max Meador scored five straight points to give Skyline a 13-11 lead.

The game was tied 13-13 after the first period.

“We started a little slow,” Millbrook coach Derek Butler said. “Skyline did a good job. I know they’ve got some good players, and we knew it was going to be a battle.”

The two teams traded leads to start the second period. A basket by Meador gave the Hawks their last lead of the game, 16-15, with 4:24 left in the second period.

Butler then put in his subs and extended his three-quarter press to a full-court press and the game quickly changed.

The Hawks (5-8, 0-4 Northwestern) turned the ball over eight times in the final five minutes of the first half, and Millbrook went on 16-2 run.

“We started with our three-quarter trap and they did a good job of breaking that. So we extended it to a full court where we’re looking to trap and that was able to get some turnovers,” Butler said. “Our bench really did a good job. Our starting group did not do a good job of turning them over, so we brought in our guys off the bench. Our energy rose and they did a nice job of finishing out the half.”

Monroe said that his players did not make good passes against the press, which led to easy points for the Pioneers.

“We made some lackadaisical passes, and against a team like that they’re going to make you pay for it,” Monroe said.

Millbrook (11-3, 4-0) followed up with a strong third period, scoring 24 points. The Hawks were able to cut the lead to as little as 41-29 with 4:39 left in the third period. Meador had a layup, and Colin Smith drained a 3-pointer to help keep the Hawks within striking distance.

However, the Pioneers closed the period with a 16-4 run to put the game out of reach.

One big key for the Pioneers was rebounding. Millbrook was able to control the boards most of the game.

“That was a big focus coming in,” Butler said. “They’ve got some big bodies there – Antwan (Swain) and Max (Meador) there underneath. So we knew if we kept them off the glass that would limit some of their opportunities. … I think overall we did a good job, but they had some spurts when they were making runs at us where they were crashing the boards hard and they were beating us to the glass. When we were winning that battle we were playing well.”

Amos led the Pioneers with 16 points, while Jordan Funk had 10.

“I like this group,” Butler said. “We got a lot of good seniors – five good senior guys — and they help the rest of the younger ones come along. We’re balanced to where when we have to sub I don’t feel like our game usually drops very much, and so we can keep coming at you. If we want to press and do whatever else, we got options to keep coming at you for 32 minutes.”

Meador led the Hawks with 15 points and five rebounds. Swain had nine points and seven rebounds, and Smith had seven points for Skyline.

The Hawks host William Monroe on Saturday, and coach Monroe said that his team has to bounce back quickly.

“The biggest thing is we just got to come back and try to correct some of these mistakes that we’re making and hopefully we won’t make them again come Saturday. And maybe we’ll get a win Saturday,” Monroe said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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