Girls Basketball: Skyline staying positive despite rough start

The Skyline girls’ varsity basketball team continued its early-season struggles, losing to Plymouth 69-26 Thursday night at Skyline High School. Skyline head coach Johnnie Horne says his team (0-6 on the young season) is suffering from a lack of self-belief.

“It was a struggle. We struggled with a lot of things, mainly our execution and self-confidence,” Horne said. “These girls know that I know what they’re capable of. We need to get back in the gym and play with a little more heart, fire, desire, and effort to get that first win of the year.”

The Eagles hung with Plymouth in the early minutes of the first quarter. After an opening three from Plymouth, Skyline point guard Cammi Tirico scored four straight points for the Eagles. Skyline forward Renee Faulkner assisted on the second basket, hitting Tirico in transition with a great pass after a Skyline steal.

After Tirico’s second basket at the 6:44 mark of the first quarter gave Skyline a 4-3 lead, Plymouth caught fire, closing the first quarter on a 26-2 run. Plymouth took advantage of several Skyline turnovers, converting them into easy baskets in transition, both layups and three-point field goals. Plymouth senior guard Sophie Zelek scored 10 of her team-leading 17 points in the first quarter, and guards Ella Riley and Kyra Brandon each made two three-point shots for the Wildcats. The only Eagles’ points during the run came when senior Alaina Heetderks got an offensive rebound and made a layup with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter. The Wildcats led 29-6 after the first quarter.

Horne said that Plymouth’s shooters broke the game open.

“They have shooters. They got out and did a good job running the floor,” Horne said. “They moved the basketball pretty quick, got it to the shooters, who made the shots count.”

Skyline continued to struggle in the second quarter, where Plymouth outscored them 29-9 to take a 48-15 lead going into halftime. Skyline forwards Janee Faulkner and Ava Victory were bright spots for the Eagles in the quarter. Victory made two baskets in the quarter, the first of which was set up after Faulkner forced a Plymouth turnover. Faulkner, along with forcing the turnover, scored three of her team-leading 10 points in the quarter and was active in the paint, securing rebounds and forcing Plymouth fouls.

Faulkner was even more dominant for Skyline in the third quarter, scoring seven points, forcing three Plymouth fouls, and nabbing two offensive rebounds.

Horne commanded Faulkner’s play after the game, calling her Skyline’s “go-to player” on the offensive end.

“She brings toughness,” Horne said. “The term bully-ball comes to mind, because she has flair to her game, and when she has her eyes set on the rim, it’s very hard to stop her without fouling her.”

Despite Faulkner’s strong play, Plymouth relentless transition game allowed it to expanded its lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Eagles 18-9 in the quarter and forcing a running clock into the fourth quarter. Skyline guard Maya Wooley scored Skyline’s only two points in the fourth quarter, banking home a shot.

Skyline’s next chance for its first victory of the season will come on Dec. 28 when it hosts Swartz Creek. The game will tip off at noon.

“It won’t be an easy game for us,” Horne said. “They’re a good team, and have several standout players that we’ll need to worry about. But we’ll be up to the challenge.”