After a closely contested game throughout, Horizon proved to be the better team and emerged victorious over Skyline with a final score of 83-75. The game was tight from start to finish, with Horizon only taking complete control of the game in the final minutes. The loss is an especially tough one for Skyline, whose slight lead quickly evaporated in the final minutes with sloppy play and missed shots. Overall, an exciting game for two teams fighting for playoff contention.
“We gave this game away by turning the ball over,” said Skyline head coach James Capriotti. “We need to protect the ball a lot better. We had too many turnovers down on our end and we were too erratic with the ball.”
Skyline’s look of despair and desperation as the final seconds ticked away Thursday night spoke to just how close they were to stealing a win in Horizon. From the jump it was clear the Coyotes were outmatched, but they didn’t seem to care. They were taking three pointers with aplomb, shooting early in the possession and often. It seemed like everyone on the team had the hot hand, and the three pointers kept raining down on the shocked Horizon squad. At the end of the first quarter the score was tied at 17 apiece, but Skyline certainly felt in control. It was much of the same for the rest of the half, with Skyline staying close thanks to more impressive outside shooting.
At halftime, Skyline even led by two with a score of 39-37. In the third quarter, Skyline’s lead grew all the way to six. In parts of the fourth, Skyline was able to effectively break the typically staunch Horizon press and control the pace of the game. But, around the four-minute mark things began to change. Whether it was nerves, or fatigue, or some combination of the two something began to change for Skyline. Their passes weren’t as crisp, they weren’t breaking the press as easily, and most importantly their shots weren’t falling. After a series of missed shots and turnovers, Horizon took the lead and never looked back.
“Down the stretch we just couldn’t execute,” said Skyline guard Donovan Jackson. “We turned the ball over too many times, didn’t execute on offense, and we backed down on defense.”
Skyline stayed in the game in large part thanks to the effort of Jackson on both the offensive and defensive ends. The junior lead the team in scoring, dropping 22 points in the effort. Despite his diminutive size, he was able to consistently get to the rim and either score on a layup or dish the ball out to an open shooter.
Despite the team’s mediocre record, this season has been an overwhelming success for Capriotti and his staff. Skyline’s reputation is not that of a basketball powerhouse, and for the playoffs and relevancy to even be in sight is incredibly impressive. While games like Thursday’s can be frustrating, the future is looking bright for the Coyotes.
“We’re a really young team,” said Capriotti. “I mean we start a freshman, two sophomores, a junior and one senior. We’re young, and with being young there are some growing pains. But the kids are fighting hard, it’s been a great season, we’re in playoff contention for the first time in school history, so I’m not going to get too down after tonight.”
Skyline, who drops to 12-11, will look to rebound with a game at home against Alhambra on Monday. Horizon, who has now won eight in a row and improved to 17-6, will try to keep the hot streak going against Hamilton tomorrow.