Third-period slump costly for Hawks

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline played right with Handley throughout its Northwestern District boys basketball game Friday. However, a five-minute stretch in the third period proved costly.

The Judges used a big run in the third period to build a double-digit lead en route to a 62-46 victory over the Hawks.

“That’s tough,” Skyline coach Jeff Monroe said of his team’s five-minute scoring drought. “That’s been us the whole year. We’ve been hitting spurts where you go three or four minutes and don’t score. We did have some opportunities where we missed a couple layups and free throws right there that would have stopped their run. To their credit they made plays when they had to.”

A 3-pointer early in the second half by Skyline’s Colin Smith cut Handley’s lead to 30-27 with 6:36 left. It would be Skyline’s last basket for almost five minutes.

The Judges (7-4) used a 9-0 run to take a 39-27 edge. They did it mostly with their bench. Handley’s Traiven Baxter and D’andre James combined for five of the Judges’ points during the run.

“I think in the second half, I think we had guys coming off the bench that provided a spark and did some positive things,” Handley coach Jason Toten said. “I think that’s what kind of got us going in the second half.”

The Hawks (5-6) didn’t go away quietly. Skyline’s Ryan Scott hit a 3-pointer to end the scoring slump with 1:56 left in the third period.

The Hawks started the fourth period off strong. Smith and TrayQuan Diamond each hit a 3-pointer and Smith and Antwan Swain each hit a layup during a 10-3 run. The spurt cut the lead to 44-40 with six minutes left in the contest.

Handley answered as Parker Wilson scored inside the paint, and Swain quickly picked up his fourth and fifth fouls to foul out of the game for the Hawks. Swain was in foul trouble throughout the contest and barely played in the second half.

“It changed the way we played,” Monroe said of Swain’s foul trouble. “Antwan Swain is one of our better players, and when we lose him like we did it hurts.”

The Judges used a 13-3 run to build a 57-43 lead with 1:41 left and put the game away.

Toten said he was not happy with how his team played in the first half. The Judges struggled against Skyline’s zone defenses, and had trouble getting their offense and defense going.

“I don’t think in the first half we controlled the tempo like we wanted to,” Toten said. “I don’t think we did a very good job of trapping and pressing. I don’t think offensively we pushed the issue. We kind of let them set up in the zone, and we didn’t work the ball at all. We didn’t attack the gaps and we weren’t hitting shots.”

The two teams were tied at 11 after the first period. The Hawks were able to take a 16-13 lead in the second period, aided by a 3-pointer from Brandon Wells and a basket by Evan Lester. The Judges came back with a 14-4 spurt to take a 27-20 lead, before Diamond hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four points at the half.

Handley had four players in double figures. Kobe Tigney had 13 points, while Gus Wise had 12. Keevon Martin and Wilson each had 10 for Handley.

The Judges have a young squad, with only three seniors and Toten said that he wants to see his team play better night in and night out.

“I think we’re up and down. We’ll go out and play a good game and then the next game we’re not the same team. And then well go out and do the same thing,” Toten said. “A lot of it is inexperience – kind of the maturity of our kids. Not being able to put back-to-back games together. … I’m pleased with where we’re at I would just like to do it on a more consistent basis.”

Smith led the Hawks with 17 points.

Monroe said he was worried how his team would play after a tough loss to rival Warren County on Thursday night, but he was pleased with what he saw.

“I was pleased with my kids’ effort. We lost a tough one (Thursday) night. I didn’t know how they were going to react,” Monroe said. “They came out and played well tonight. Against a quality opponent like Handley is, I felt good about the way we played.”

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

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