Outler sparks Warriors past Hawks in overtime battle

STEPHENS CITY- Azjier Outler knew it was his time.

With the game on the line, the Sherando senior realized he needed to step up and he did in a big way. He scored seven points in overtime to lead the Warriors to a 70-63 Northwestern District boys basketball victory over Skyline.

“I just tried to stay focused to lead the team, make the clutch shots, the clutch plays that I needed to,” Outler said. “I knew they needed me to step up as a senior, and so I did. I tried my hardest to.”

Outler hit a free throw to give Sherando a 63-62 lead early in the overtime. The foul on the play also fouled out Skyline point guard TrayQuan Diamond. Outler scored back-to-back baskets on layups and made another free throw to push the lead to 68-62 with 1:30 left in overtime.

The Hawks turned the ball over four times in overtime, and Skyline coach Jeff Monroe said that Diamond fouling out did change things for his team.

“It changed the way we did some things,” Monroe said. “We’ve played without him before. Our guys just got to step up and make plays. To their credit they caused us to turn it over a couple times right there.”

The biggest pressure moment of the game for Outler came at the end of regulation. With the Warriors trailing 62-60, Outler went to the free-throw line with 19 seconds left. After making the first one, Skyline called timeout. Outler came right back and calmly sank the second free throw to tie the game.

“I just kept thinking about practice really, because they had the crowd yelling,” Outler said. “It’s a lot of pressure. Really I just had to relax my nerves. I had to think I was in practice, and follow through on my shots.”

The Hawks took the lead early and held it for most of the first half. Skyline’s Antwan Swain scored seven points in the opening period to help give the Hawks a 16-10 advantage after the first eight minutes.

Sherando had five turnovers in the opening period, and struggled from the field.

The Hawks extended the lead to as much as 12 in the second period, behind the hot shooting of Colin Smith. The sophomore hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Skyline a 22-10 lead with 7:01 left in the first half.

The Warriors responded with an 11-2 run to trim the lead to 24-21 with 5:07 left in the second period. Sherando’s Isaiah Armistead scored four points during the run.

Skyline pushed the lead back to double digits on back-to-back baskets by Ryan Scott and Swain with 2:23 left in the half.

Sherando answered with a 9-3 run to close the half.

The two teams went back and forth throughout most of the second half.

Swain led the Hawks with 25 points, while Smith added 19. Max Meador added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks.

“We did everything but win the game tonight,” Monroe said. “We made some mistakes down at the end. To Sherando’s credit those guys know how to win over there. … We’re still learning how to win. I was really proud of my guys – the effort they gave tonight. It’s just one of those things where we didn’t get the win tonight, but I am happy for them and the way they played.”

Outler led the Warriors with 23 points. Isaiah Armistead had 16 points, and Jared Miller had 10 for Sherando.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com