FRONT ROYAL — Skyline wanted to make sure history didn’t repeat itself and on Tuesday night they used a solid defensive effort to do just that.
The Hawks used a big third-quarter run to pull away and knocked off Clarke County, 61-51, in nondistrict boys basketball action.
Last year at this time of the season, the Hawks entered their game against Clarke County with four wins and lost on the road. They won only one more game the rest of the season. Skyline entered Tuesday’s contest with Clarke County with a 4-2 record.
“It feels amazing,” Skyline sophomore Mason Schmitz said. “Last year it was this game against Clarke that backtracked us on our season. We fell into like a pit and we had to dig ourselves out. This year it’s way better.”
After racing out to an 8-2 lead in the opening three minutes, the Hawks struggled throughout the rest of the first quarter. Clarke County used a 16-3 run to take an 18-11 edge. Skyline’s Marcel Roy hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to cut the lead to four.
The Eagles (4-6) continued to lead throughout the first half, but the Hawks were able to cut the deficit to 25-24 at the half.
“The first quarter we struggled a bit,” Skyline coach Jeff Monroe said. “We couldn’t get in a groove. They came out and they punched us in the mouth. They came out and played well. We were able to get some things going in the second quarter. I thought we played pretty well in the second, third and fourth quarters. I thought we did a better job, defensive wise.”
In the third quarter, it was Schmitz who gave the Hawks a real boost. Schmitz picked up his second foul with 3:32 left in the first quarter and had to sit on the bench the rest of the opening half.
Once back out on the floor, Schmitz made an impact on the game. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the third quarter.
“(Earlier this season) Against Central I did horrible in the first half, and so I had the same mindset going into the third (Tuesday),” Schmitz said. “I was like I have to show that I’m better than that.”
Schmitz helped the Hawks out-score the Eagles, 22-11, in the third quarter. He punctuated his big third quarter with a one-handed dunk that brought fans and teammates to their feet.
“That was amazing, I’m not going to lie,” Schmitz said. “I love that feeling so much. It hypes everybody up. And it keeps us going.”
The Eagles didn’t go away quietly. Clarke County used an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 48-44 with 4:38 left.
With a little over a minute left, Skyline senior Dylan Allison came up with one of the biggest plays of the night. He was able to get a steal and convert it into a layup to give Skyline a 55-48 lead.
“I saw the ball come to me and just took off with it,” Allison said. “All my energy kept going. I just knew I needed to score.”
The Hawks (5-2) held on from there despite going 2-for-5 from the free-throw line in the final minute.
Allison said the team has been playing well in close games this season.
“Definitely having that pressure and still being able to come out on top of it — that’s the best feeling you can get,” Allison said.
A big key to the win was Skyline’s defense, which caused Clarke County to commit 20 turnovers.
“Coach (Steve) Haines, my assistant coach does a heck of a job scouting,” Monroe said. “And our guys knew what was coming. And because of that, we were able to jump some of their passes and get some turnovers, which made us be able to go on that (third-quarter) run there and give us some separation.”
The Eagles were led by Dakota McCaw with 15 points and Volkan Ergen with 14.
Allison had a game-high 19 points and five steals. Schmitz had five rebounds, two steals and two assists and Marcel Roy had 10 points, eight rebounds, four steals, and four assists. Norwood also gave the team a real boost with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hawks have tied the number of wins they had all of last season and won a game that they didn’t win last year. Monroe said he hopes this is a sign of things to come for his team.
“Hopefully this game right here is a stepping stone, where we can say ‘hey we were here last year but now we took that next step,’” Monroe said. “We’ll see. There’s still a lot of season left.”