The Skyline Thunderbird boys team topped Stafford in a tough fought 51-44 Victory Jan. 11 at Skyline.

It was a little bit of David vs Goliath when the Skyline Thunderbirds took on the Stafford Trojans Tuesday in the Thunderdome. While Stafford definitely had the height advantage with players ranging from 6’ to 6’7” it was the T-Birds that ultimately came out on top with a 51-44 victory to remain undefeated for the season.

It took a while for the T- Birds to adjust to the height differential and their wing span. Skyline knew Stafford players had that advantage and the team practiced for it but were never really able to get it. Many of the teams shots had to come from far outside and in the corners. The missed a bunch of layups and only had eight offensive rebounds, said Coach Kenny Eddy.

The Trojans started the game with a 7-0 lead before Skyline found the basket. Then Skyline went on a 12-2 run and finally got ahead for a 17-13 lead at the end of the first quarter that featured 3-point shots from Steve Fisher, Sam Fisher and Cade Swonger.

Eddy said it took a while to get going. It took about three minutes to feel when and where things would be open. A turning point in the game came in the first quarter when Skyline finally saw that first score go in, it was like sharks going after a blood scent.

Scoring dropped off in the second quarter for both teams as the T-Birds tightened up their defense and held Stafford to just 8 points for the quarter. Skyline only managed 13 points and the included 3pointers from Swonger, Mark Schmidt and Ryan Adams giving Skyline a 30-21 lead at the half. That nine point lead was the biggest lead for either team in the game.

In the third quarter, Stafford had a run and put in 15 points while Skyline managed 12 with Swonger leading the team with a 3-pointer and a pair of 2s but the T-Birds still held the lead 42-36.

In the fourth quarter, it became very much a defensive battle with Skyline scoring only 9 and Stafford only 8. The team instinctively held the ball

Free throws were huge for Skyline in the fourth. Seven of Skyline’s 9 points came from free throws. Down the stretch Steve Fisher hit 5 of 6 free throws while Sam Fisher went 2 for 2 from the charity strip that were all crucial to the victory.

“It was our best free throw shooting of the year,” Eddy said.

Eliazar Carrasco added the only other points in the quarter with a 2-pointer. Stafford got within 2 points but Skyline went into a stall that finally forced Stafford to foul. With just seconds left in the game, Stafford’s 6’7” Alex Manojlovic went up for a shot and Carrasco blocked it to put a cap on the game that ended with a 51-44 victory for Skyline.

Skyline only used seven players while Stafford used only six and all of them were 6’ or taller.

It definitely took Skyline some time to adjust to the wing span of the Stafford players. Cross court passes had to be very high and many passes into the lane were intercepted, Eddy said.

Some of the match ups really challenged the players. Mark Schmidt was up against Ethan Hildebrand who was eight inches taller and had a seven foot wingspan. Stafford also played a zone defense and Skyline didn’t do well against it. They want people to come guard them, Eddy said.

Because of Stafford’s height, Skyline had a tough time getting rebounds. They didn’t box out like they needed and that took away a lot of transitions. Nik Montgomery is one of Skyline’s best rebounders but wasn’t playing because of illness, Eddy said.

One thing that did work on defense was taking charges. Several times, Steve Fisher took charges and ended up on his back.

Eddy said taking the charges was great and they were not typical because it was not always in the act of shooting.

“It (taking a charge) makes me happier than anything. You know you are going to get hit,” Eddy said.

Skyline’s speed and patience began to wear down Stafford that only played six players and about midway through the third quarter, it began to show.

While Stafford was a big challenge for the team, the toughest part of the schedule lies ahead for Skyline. They needed to be tested to prepare them for what is coming, Eddy said.

“We need more games like that,” Eddy said.

Up next of Skyline is Attica who comes to the Thunderdome with a record of 7-2. Eddy said they were one of the best teams they would face and had a good coach.

Cade Swonger lead the T-Bird scoring with 17 including three 3-pointers. Steve Fisher had 15 points from two 3-pointers, a 2-pointer plus hitting 8 of 7 free throws. Mark Schmidt contributed 7 points including a 3-pointer and 2 free throws. Sam Fisher had 5 from a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. Ryan Adams played just one quarter but hit a 3-pointer. Carrasco and Shriver each scored 2-pointers. As a team, Skyline hit 11 of 12 free throws.

The Thunderbirds played Attica Friday, January 4, at Skyline. Those scores and reports will be available next week.