LONGMONT — There is little question the Skyline boys basketball team has improved by leaps and bounds since last year’s two-win campaign.
Nevertheless, the Falcons still are learning how to play tough for the entire 32 minutes necessary to knock off the state’s elite teams, a lesson that was hammered home on Tuesday.
Skyline played 2011 Class 4A state runner-up Windsor evenly except for a brief spell late in the third quarter. But it was that momentary lapse that cost the Falcons, as they suffered their fourth consecutive loss with a 71-64 defeat in a Tri-Valley League showdown.
“We lost our poise,” Skyline coach Michael Peterson said. “We had about 10 things that we were concentrating on, and every single thing we asked the kids to do, they did. We just lost our poise. Down the stretch in that third quarter, it wasn’t about defense or offense. It was about losing our poise — talking to each other, communication. We lost our cool in a pressure situation, and that cost us the ball game.”
Windsor scored the final eight points of the third quarter and added the first bucket of the fourth, establishing a 12-point lead that was just large enough to hold off the Falcons down the stretch. An NBA-sized 3-pointer by junior Dustin Mandrell kept Skyline within four points with about 40 seconds remaining, but missed free throws and a crucial missed rebound on an errant Windsor free throw prevented the Falcons from drawing any closer.
“In the third quarter, we just lost our composure and lost our minds,” Skyline junior Colton Dabney said. “We couldn’t get our heads in it and we weren’t passing the ball as well as we were earlier in the game. Even being down 12 in the first quarter, we still were able to come back and tie them. We hoped we could do that again in the fourth, but it just didn’t come.”
Skyline (6-12, 4-6 Tri-Valley League) was reeling early against Windsor’s offensive onslaught. The Wizards went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the opening frame, but Skyline returned the favor with its own 4-for-4 effort from long range in the second, tying the game 35-35 at halftime.
Tuesday’s effort was the second impressive performance in recent weeks against the state’s elite by Skyline, which dropped a 41-34 decision against defending Class 4A state champion Sterling on Jan. 27. Since then, however, the Falcons have suffered double-digit losses against a Northridge team they beat earlier this season and against a Silver Creek club that entered that contest with four consecutive losses. The skid is the marking of a trend Peterson hopes his club can reverse during the final five games of the regular season.
“Against Sterling and Windsor, we play incredible. And then we play down to the others,” Peterson said. “There is a lot of potential on this team. But I’ve said it all year — it’s experience. In a close game, it’s not about the best team, it’s about who plays well down the stretch and has their poise.”
Skyline boasted five players with double-digit scoring efforts, led by 16 points from Dabney and 13 off the bench from sophomore Luciano Quesada, who went 8-for-8 at the free throw line. Windsor all-state candidate Aaron Schmidt led all scorers with 19 points.
“We just need to play this way all the time,” Dabney said. “We don’t need to drop down to our competition. It’s nothing physical. We just need to keep our heads in it.”
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Windsor 71, Skyline 64
At Skyline HS
WINDSOR (13-5, 8-2)
Merkey 0 2-4 2, Spykstra 5 1-2 12, Martin 6 0-1 15, Schmidt 8 1-3 19, Baldwin 3 9-11 15, Ochsner 1 2-2 5, Walker 1 1-2 3. 24 16-25 71.
SKYLINE (6-12, 4-6)
Guteirrez 1 0-0 2, Dabney 6 4-10 16, Mandrell 3 1-2 10, Rice 4 2-4 11, Wright 5 0-0 10, Quesada 2 8-8 13, Anthony 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 15-24 64.
Score by quarters:
Windsor 22 13 18 18 — 71
Skyline 11 24 8 21 — 64
3-point field goals — Windsor (7): Martin 3, Schmidt 2, Spykstra, Ochsner; Skyline (5): Mandrell 3, Rice, Quesada. Total fouls — Windsor 15, Skyline 19. Fouled out — Wright. Technical fouls — None.