Rateb’s free throws give Hawks win over Wildcats

Rachel Sirbaugh

FRONT ROYAL — As the basketball bounced around in the middle of the floor, Zaryn Rateb knew what her team needed her to do.

The Skyline junior picked up a loose ball in the final seconds, and eventually made the game-winning free throws to give the Hawks a 47-44 home win over cross-town rival Warren County on Tuesday night. It was the regular-season finale for both teams.

“I was like I got to get it,” Rateb said of the loose ball. “I have to get it, so we can go and try to win it.”

Rateb grabbed the loose ball with nine seconds left in a tie game. She missed a layup, but was fouled.

Rateb then calmly knocked down two free throws to give Skyline a 46-44 lead with six seconds remaining.

“I was a little bit nervous, but I just knew I had to make it for us because we really needed it,” Rateb said.

Skyline’s Rachel Sirbaugh then stole the ball on the in-bounds pass and was fouled with four seconds left.

“We knew we were up, but they have a lot of good shooters so we knew we just had to (apply pressure),” Sirbaugh said. “So I just watched the in-bounder and her eyes were going towards (Warren County’s) Nichole (Rittgers). So I just stepped in and knew I had to get it.”

Sirbaugh, who was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, made 1-of-2 to give the Hawks a 47-44 lead.

Rittgers’ desperation heave at the buzzer missed to seal the win for Skyline.

The Hawks (10-12) led 35-24, entering the fourth quarter but Warren County made a big rally.

Warren County’s Cor’shauna Cunningham scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth period.

“She got determined in there, and she was trying her hardest in there,” Warren County coach Christine Simmons said of Cunningham.

The Wildcats (8-13) tied the game at 37 with 2:53 left on two free throws by Nikki Roof.

Warren County eventually took its first lead of the second half, 44-43, on a basket by Cunningham with 38 seconds left.

Skyline senior Kali Slate capped off senior night by making 1-of-2 free throws with 16 seconds left to tie the game at 44.

“Kali Slate hasn’t scored all night, probably one of the worst free throw shooters on the team — and daggone if she didn’t hit that second one,” Skyline coach Jim Kenney said. “That was huge. That’s something she’s never going to forget.”

Cunningham had six rebounds to go with her 21 points.

The Wildcats’ postseason fate was still up in the air as of Tuesday night. There was a chance the Wildcats could be the No. 8 seed in the Region 3B tournament, which starts Friday.

Either way, Simmons said she’s enjoyed coaching the girls this season.

“(Warren County assistant) Coach (Ali) O’Barto and I, it’s our first year coaching here at Warren County, and we’re happy to say that we were the coaches of this team,” Simmons said. “Those girls were wonderful girls on and off the court. We had an up and down season, but they made it worth it.”

Sirbaugh led the Hawks with 19 points, while Colette Salyers added 12.

The Hawks will either be the 6 or 7 seed in the Region 3B tournament. They will play at either No. 2 seed Armstrong or No. 3 seed Culpeper on Friday.

Sirbaugh said that she feels good about how the team is playing heading into the postseason.

“We just got to play our game,” Sirbaugh said. “Just play aggressive, play like we did this game and we can go far.”