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Falcons top Hawks

By Greg Brill – sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — As the final buzzer sounded, Central guard Matt Sherfey let out a howl and had a chest-bump ready for assistant coach Aaron Orndorff as his teammates celebrated behind him at midcourt.

The Falcons had just survived a wild one, defeating Skyline 68-64 on Wednesday night and having reason to bask in beating a Group AA foe that just last week had been ranked No. 7 in the first Associated Press poll of the season.

But, wait a minute. This victory had to be put together through the course of the game. Central coach Mickey Clinedinst had just the right advice at half-time and the Falcons won a game because of it.

Central’s first-year coach saw that his team had fought its way back into the game beginning late in the first half, closing on a 9-2 run.

The Falcons were still down 10 at the break, but when the second half began it was clear Central was a different team.

In a roller-coaster second half, Central outscored Skyline by 14 in the third, held an eight-point lead in the fourth, fell behind in the final minute, then retook the lead on the possession that followed Skyline’s go-ahead score.

A few missed shots later by Skyline and a few made free throws later by Central, and the Falcons had avenged an early-season double-digit loss to these same Hawks.

“The first half, we didn’t play too well,” Clinedinst said. “We couldn’t stop running water if we wanted to at that time. When I got in [the locker room], I told them, ‘It’s a challenge — we have to play better defense. That’s the first thing. And the other thing [is], we have to rebound. Do those two things, and on offense just attack. Be aggressive.'”

Central’s Seth Bauserman certainly felt like turning things around in a jiffy. The senior forward got 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, and his drive with 24 seconds left to play put Central in the lead, 65-64.

“We just tried to weather the storm since things weren’t going our way in the first half,” said Bauserman, who added nine rebounds, five assists, and three steals. “We just got together and were like, ‘Look, we can’t do this by ourselves. We’ve got to come together as a team, everyone work hard on defense, get rebounds, and push it up the floor.’ We set really good screens for each other and that really freed up a lot of things.”

The Hawks missed two shots in close on their next two possessions after Bauserman’s go-ahead basket, and Bauserman proceeded to seal the win with three free throws.

The loss for Skyline (11-3) was its second in three games and has left the team a bit down as it heads into an important Northwestern District game Friday at Millbrook.

“Really, they beat us to every loose ball,” Skyline coach Sonny Dyke said. “What’s very disappointing to me tonight is [Central] played last night [a 33-point win against Stonewall Jackson] and they [looked like] the fresh team. They beat us to every single loose ball.

“There were at least four times we actually boxed out and the ball hit the floor and we still couldn’t track it down. They have people diving on the floor for loose balls and we don’t.

“Right now, we’re flat and I’m going to take responsibility for that. I’m not doing a good enough job getting them ready to play.”

Down as much as 17 points in the first half, Central (7-6) closed its deficit to 37-27 at the half. The Falcons were still down by double-digits a few minutes into the third period before closing the period with a 17-2 run.

Like Clinedinst had hoped, the Falcons started attacking the basket and going harder for rebounds. Central even took on the image of Skyline in a lot of ways, sharing the basketball and getting high-percentage shots to drop.

Central outscored Skyline 21-7 in the third period to take a 48-44 lead. Five Falcons scored in the period, paced by Bauserman’s seven points. Sean Semones and freshman Hayden Bauserman also scored four points, and Travis Cooper and Matt Sherfey had three apiece.

“Some people can score. So people can play better defense,” Clinedinst said. “Some kids can just pass the ball. If they play within the team and don’t worry about what happens, just understand who you have as a teammate and who should be touching the ball, and who should be putting it in the most, you’re going to get some points as a result of that.

“We try to get five [players] to play together. Move the ball, set screens. We’ve started to set some better screens this week and we’ve started getting better looks.”

The teams got into a shooting contest to begin the fourth quarter. Skyline’s Joey Neidigh (15 points) drained a 3-pointer to open the scoring. Central’s Hayden Bauserman (eight points) followed with his own bomb. Neidigh struck again from behind the arc. Then Central’s David Hoye (14 points) did the trick, which was followed by two made free throws from Sherfey (11 points) and a jumper from the foul line by Seth Bauserman for a 58-50 lead with 5:19 left.

“It seemed like they came down the court, hit a 3, we came down the court, hit a 3,” Seth Bauserman said. “They came down the court, hit a layup, we’d come down the court, hit a layup. We just tried to answer each other and it was two really good teams tonight battling each other. We just knew we had to come out on top and keep things rolling.”

Skyline wasn’t done, by any stretch. The Hawks got their energy back and managed a few stops on the defensive end. They began to chip away at their deficit, and with a 14-5 run, took a 64-63 lead on Ryan Dyke’s jumper from the foul line with 47 seconds left.

Held to four points through three periods, Dyke (eight points) had just scored his second basket of the period and the Hawks seemed poised for a thrilling comeback.

Being able to get to the basket all game, Seth Bauserman would have nothing of a last-minute setback. He simply went right to the basket and his soft touch off the glass on yet another brilliant drive to the hoop, gave Central the lead back for good.

The Falcons shot 51 percent (24-of-47) from the field and shot 19 more free throws than did the Hawks, another indicator that they were more fluid to get to the basket than did the hosts. Central was 16-of-27 on free throws; Skyline just 7-of-8.

Zach Dove scored all 10 of his points in the first half for Skyline and Cameron Taylor had nine of his 11 after the break.