Handley boys rout Skyline, 71-44
Posted: January 30, 2013
Special to The Winchester Star
FRONT ROYAL — When offense comes and goes, defense has to be a constant.
As they left the court holding just a four-point lead at halftime on Tuesday night, the Handley boys’ basketball team could shrug off their own offensive inadequacies by taking pride in having forced Skyline into 11 turnovers and 36-percent shooting from the field.
If the Hawks felt like they still had a chance when the second half began, the Judges took care of that thought rather quickly and put the outcome to rest with a dominant effort, this time on both ends of the floor.
Bolstered by the return of junior guard Solomon Finley and a well-rounded game from senior forward Darion Robinson, Handley stepped up the intensity even more in the third period and rolled to a 71-44 Northwestern District win.
Still smarting from a late collapse on Saturday at home in a seven-point loss to Millbrook, the Judges (13-4, 4-2 Northwestern) were determined to bring better focus against the Hawks (12-6, 1-4). And like any team that has aspirations of playing deep in the postseason, Handley’s players know that the two crucial elements to success often revolve around playing top-notch defense for four quarters and having chemistry from baseline to baseline.
Handley extended a 26-22 lead at the break to 40-25 a little more than four minutes into the second half by clearing the glass more efficiently, getting run-outs, and hustling back to the defensive end to repeat the process.
The Judges made 8 of 13 shots from the field in the third period, held Skyline to 3-of-14 shooting over the same span, and outscored the Hawks 20-9 to open a 15-point lead by quarter’s end. A 25-point effort in the fourth made a lot of people around the Handley circle quite happy afterward.
“Our intensity [picked up],” said Robinson, who led the Judges with his 16 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. “We had a ‘unity’ speech before the game and talked about coming together as a team, and I think we really did tonight.
“Your defense starts your offense, and that definitely helped us. And, we definitely rebounded a whole lot better in the second half. Defense is all about unity. If we [all] have that unity on defense, we can stop anyone.”
The third quarter began with a turnaround jumper by Robinson on the half’s first possession, and the Judges took off not long after. Handley’s Jake Rudolph and Skyline’s Kylmen Breeden (12 points) traded 3-pointers before Finley re-entered the game and made an immediate impact.
After scoring in transition off a turnover possession, Finley streaked into the lane and laid in his feed for another basket. Finley then went outside to make the team’s third straight basket — this one a 3-pointer off the right baseline. When junior center Cameron Jackson (13 points, six rebounds, three blocks, three assists, two steals) hit a jumper down low (off an assist from Finley), Handley’s lead shot out to 15 with 3:54 left.
Even with a big lead in the fourth quarter, the Judges’ approach to everything would make you think that it was still a tight contest. There was hustle on both ends, and sharing the basketball led to another big quarter on offense and a second-straight period to outscore the Hawks by double-digits.
The Judges made up for a 41-percent shooting performance in the first half by making 15 of 25 shots from the field (60 percent) in the second half to finish an even 50 percent (26 of 52) on the night. Handley out-rebounded Skyline by one to close the gap to 32-26, and the defense ended up forcing 23 turnovers and limiting Skyline, which has lost five of its last six, to 31-percent shooting for the game.
“We extended our defense tonight and did some good things,” Handley coach Tommy Dixon said. “I think these guys are starting to realize that we’re missing opportunities, and they came out with a desire to play tonight. Which is good. We played full-court defense and did a good job.”
The Hawks scored the first four points and Handley did not score until Robinson coasted in with a steal nearly three minutes into the game. The Judges limited Skyline to two more points and led 12-6 at the end of the first period, but the Hawks came back and traded points throughout much of the second period to stay close.
Skyline constantly beat Handley to the glass on both ends (senior center Nick Helmick had a game-high 12 rebounds for the Hawks), junior guard Casey Stewart (who scored 11 of his team-best 13 points in the first half) made shots, and the Hawks were able to stay close by playing at a breakneck speed at times and getting Handley out of a good flow.
A drive that fell for Breeden with five seconds left in the half had Skyline within 26-22 of the Judges. But once the second half rolled around, the Hawks found themselves overmatched again by a district foe.
“We were losing the battle of the boards and I think we came back early in the second half and did a much better job there,” Dixon said.
And while Robinson got over half his point total (nine) in the fourth quarter, Dixon liked how his talented post player made a difference inside and elsewhere to provide sparks throughout the game.
“Darion was focused tonight,” Dixon said. “Darion did a good job of catching the ball and scoring down inside. When he’s playing at that level, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
Having Finley back after missing the team’s first 15 games (Dixon would not comment about why Finley did not dress before this past weekend) has made the Judges a little bit deeper. Finley scored all 12 of his points in the second half, and he had the highlight-reel play of the game in the fourth quarter.
After going up to block a shot by Dorrion Smith, Finley grabbed the block out of the air, raced to the other end, and had a resounding slam, much to the delight of the Handley crowd, and was fouled by Smith.
Finley completed the and-one with 2:07 left for a 65-39 lead.
“That was the highlight of my day,” Robinson said, a big smile beaming from his face. “He provides opportunities we didn’t have before. He scores, he’s quick, he can rebound. Everything we need, he can provide.”
Junior point guard Tre Brown added nine points and three assists for Handley and Rudolph scored seven to go with a game-high five assists.