Spartans produce solid results at holiday tournament
January 7, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Basketball teams that shoot 11 of 31 at the free-throw line don’t typically win, but the Skyline High School girls managed to do it during their most recent outing.
In the championship game of the Emerald Division at the West Coast Jamboree in Dublin, Calif., Skyline shot 35 percent at the charity stripe. Yet the Spartans managed to outlast host Valley Christian, 57-54, on Dec. 30.
The Spartans (6-3 overall) built a 45-35 lead after three quarters, but had to fend off a late challenge from a Valley Christian team sporting a 9-0 record and playing in front of its home fans.
After Valley Christian cut its deficit to one point, Skyline made three pivotal plays down the stretch, coach Greg Bruns said.
First, the Spartans picked up a defensive rebound and made a couple of transition passes that resulted in a layup for Taylor McKerlich with 30 seconds left.
Then, after another Valley Christian basket again made it a one-point game, Maddy Adamson sank two free throws to put Skyline up by three with 10 seconds left.
Adamson blocked Valley Christian’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the other end of the court, sealing the win.
“It got pretty frantic at the end,” Bruns said.
Skyline started the Bay Area tourney — a 100-team, 13-bracket spectacle — with a 71-33 blowout of Washington, Ga. Eleven of the 12 Spartans scored, led by Shelby Kassuba’s 16 points and Promise Taylor’s 13.
Skyline advanced to the title game with a 42-26 triumph over Pleasant Grove, Utah. The Spartans’ defense held Pleasant Grove to single-digit scoring in each quarter, and Kassuba paced the offense with 10 points.
McKerlich had 14 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and two steals to lead the way against Valley Christian, and the sophomore earned the tourney’s Most Valuable Player award.
Bruns said McKerlich made only two of 12 free-throw attempts in the final, but she made up for it with some big rebounds and her overall tenacity around the hoop.
“It’s kind of the makeup of our team. We don’t have a superstar,” Bruns said. “She’s been consistent, and she carried us through the tournament.”
Kassuba — a senior who averaged 12 points in the three games — was an all-tourney selection, as was senior post Bryn deVita.
The trip included plenty of team-bonding activities. The Spartans went sightseeing around San Francisco, took in a women’s collegiate game at Cal-Berkeley, and attended a practice session with the Saint Mary’s College women.
Skyline returns to action Jan. 8 with a 7:30 p.m. start at Woodinville. The Spartans will try to avoid a 1-4 start in KingCo Conference play.
Bruns said his players are good free-throw shooters in practice, but that needs to start translating to games. The team made some noticeable defensive improvements on the California trip.
“Little by little, I think, they’re understanding what team defense is all about,” he said.