Skyline varsity girls basketball head coach Ronnie McCarver did not like the effort his team played with despite a lopsided Class 1A Area 14 Tournament semifinal win over Gaylesville on Monday.
He relayed that message to the Vikings during a couple of grueling practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Judging by Skyline’s performance in Thursday’s area finals, McCarver’s message hit the mark.
The top-seeded and Class 1A No. 3-ranked Vikings stormed out to a 20-point first-quarter lead and breezed to a 64-29 victory over second-seeded Valley Head to win the 1A Area 14 championship.
“We came ready to play,” said Skyline senior point guard Caity Ledwell. “The other night, we didn’t come ready to play and it showed. We all did our job. That’s the way we are supposed to play. That’s the way it’s got to be from now on. It’s going to take everybody pitching in and giving everything they’ve got. If we come focused, playing like we should, we’ll be fine.”
Skyline (25-5) hosts a Class 1A Northeast Sub-regional game against either R.A. Hubbard or Oakwood Adventist on Monday at 7 p.m. The winner advances to play in the Northeast Regional on Feb. 14 at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Skyline opened the game with a half-court trap that proved nightmarish for Valley Head. The Tigers committed 15 first-quarter turnovers and had 26 in all in the first half.
“We turned them over a lot, and we’re going to have to do that down the road,” McCarver said. “We tried that half-court trap. We made mistakes but we did a pretty job with it.”
Skyline led 26-6 after one quarter after Ledwell’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the frame, then went in front 38-8 early in the third quarter after two more Ledwell treys and a Baylee Usrey free throw. Kenzie Manning’s baseline floater with 8 seconds left in the second quarter sent the Vikings into halftime with a 41-15 advantage. Skyline then stretched its lead to 61-25 after three quarters.
Ledwell closed with 23 points, seven steals and two assists for the Vikings while Usrey added 13 points and five rebounds and Alli McAllister had seven points and nine rebounds. Skyline also got six points and eight rebounds from Lexi Stucky, six points from Aidan Bellomy, five points from Manning and four points, three rebounds and three steals from Madison Smith.
Bailee Carter and Kallie Ingram scored eight points each for Valley Head (11-10), which plays the Area 15 winner in the sub-regional round.
The area championship was Skyline’s second straight. The Vikings lost to in the last two regional championship games, and Smith, who along with Ledwell are of the teams’ only seniors, said Skyline is “hungrier than we’ve ever been. We just have to play the ball we know we can play and I think we’ll do big things.”