The Skyline boys rode a strong second-half performance to victory in the opening round of the Skyline Pre-Season Tournament, defeating Stafford 57-53.

The Skyline boys rode a strong second-half performance to victory in the opening round of the Skyline Pre-Season Tournament, defeating Stafford 57-53. After getting behind early and trailing at halftime, the T-Birds got back in the game in the third quarter and then edged out the win in Q4. “We made a defensive adjustment at halftime,” SHS head coach Steve Little explained. It was an effective one as Stafford only scored 20 points after intermission compared to 33 in the first half. In the early going, Stafford's pressure defense gave Skyline some trouble. They also hit some 3-pointers which helped them open a 17-10 advantage over the Thunderbirds after one frame. The second quarter saw Skyline slowly chipping into the lead. The offense began to click a little better as the T-Birds started getting the ball into the high post. Brandon Abbott scored 7 of his game-high 24 points in Q2 to jump-start the Skyline comeback. Kasey Gilpin hit a 3-ball to get Skyline back within 2 at the 1:30 mark. Stafford took a 33-28 lead into halftime. The 3rd quarter was the stanza of the long ball for Skyline as Kasey Gilpin, Colin Little and Brandon Abbott each drained one. With the defense clamping down on Stafford a little better, Skyline knotted the score at 43 heading into the decisive quarter. In the 4th quarter, perhaps the decisive factor was the T-Birds control of the glass. “Offensive boards were huge for us in the 4th quarter,” Coach Little acknowledged. Dustin Weber, Brandon Abbott and Brady McComb did yeoman work on the backboards, getting several second-chance buckets for Skyline, and generally holding Stafford to one shot per possession. Abbott scored an “and-1” and Weber had a Windex bucket to get Skyline rolling in the 4th quarter. Another Abbott “and-1” on an offensive rebound gave Skyline the lead at 50-47— one they would not relinquish even though Stafford continued to play hard and attack the basket. McComb scored a basket and Weber and Abbott made free throws down the stretch to hold off Stafford. Perhaps the key play of the night was a basket scored by Abbott following an offensive rebound by Weber that gave Skyline a 4-point lead with 30 seconds left. Instead of having the ball down 2 with a chance to tie or go ahead, Stafford found themselves in desperation mode— in a two-possession game with time running out. Skyline was able to hang on and post a 57-53 win for their first victory of the season. It wasn't a pristine game by the Thunderbirds. “We tried awful hard to beat ourselves a couple of times,” was the way Coach Little expressed it. But the T-Birds played tough and scrappy and did enough to come away with the win. It was a nice team effort. In addition to Brandon Abbott's 24, three other T-Birds were in double figures for the evening: Kasey Gilpin, Dustin Weber and Brady McComb each had 10 points. The T-Birds will take on Sedgwick at 8 p.m. on Friday as the Skyline Pre-Season Tournament continues. Sedgwick bested Pretty Prairie 77-44 in round one.