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Deliee-Eldridge connection leads Kettle Run boys to last-second win over Briar Woods

Friday, Jan. 17 | By Jeff Malmgren
Kettle Run's Brendan Deliee had team-highs with 13 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals during a 52-50 win Friday over Briar Woods. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Brendan Deliee threw the winning pass Friday to Kettle Run’s best wide receiver.

David Eldridge made the reception, not for a touchdown, but for a field goal. It gave his Cougars a 52-50 win over the Briar Woods boys basketball team at home in Nokesville.

Using the same speed he showcased on the football field this past fall, Eldridge sprinted down the basketball court with less than seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after Briar Woods star Spencer Hatcher missed a free throw with the score tied, 50-50.

Meanwhile, Deliee grabbed the rebound off the front of the rim, spun around and spotted Eldridge wide open beyond the Falcons’ defenders. So Deliee played the part of quarterback and threw a long spiral to Eldridge, who caught the pass and dribbled in for the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining.

“There was nobody behind me, so I guess it was just instinct to try and run,” said Eldridge, who earlier in the day got a football scholarship offer from the University of Virginia. “They [the Falcons] probably didn’t realize it was going to happen that fast.”

Briar Woods had outscored the Cougars, 19-11, to that point in the fourth quarter, but the four seconds between Deliee’s rebound and Eldridge’s layup kept the Falcons from forcing overtime.

“My two back guys didn’t communicate,” Briar Woods coach Mike Benson said of his guards who got caught on the wrong side of half court as Eldridge sprinted by.

For being a decorated wide receiver, Eldridge was curiously nervous when he saw the ball in the air.

“I thought I wasn’t going to catch it,” he said. “A lot of times I let the ball jump ahead of me way too far and I try and catch up, but then it’s too late.”

Eldridge had no trouble securing the ball this time, though, and his layup broke a two-game losing streak for the Cougars. They improved their record to 9-3 (2-1 Conference 27) after losing to Culpeper, 77-57, on Wednesday and Fauquier, 62-55, on Jan. 10. Briar Woods, meanwhile, dropped to 10-4.

The Falcons fell behind Friday less than three minutes into the first quarter, and they never led again. They did tie the game, however, at 48-48 with 35 seconds remaining in the fourth period.

Hatcher did it by rebounding his own missed free throw and making a running jumper while being fouled. He then made the ensuing free throw.

Christian Yancey gave Kettle Run a 50-48 lead with a pair of free throws, but then Hatcher made another driving layup while being fouled with 7.2 seconds remaining. This time, however, he missed the free throw off the front of the rim, setting up the Deliee-to-Eldridge connection.

“Greatest feeling ever,” Deliee said of the winning play. “I knew he was getting it.”

The Cougars needed that layup only because they blew a lead as large as 14 points. Kettle Run led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter and 27-14 at halftime thanks to their active defense.

“We lost the game in the first four minutes of the game,” Benson said. “They’re very aggressive and play good defense.

“We were shooting quickly and taking bad-decision shots,” he said. “We were kind of in a fog.”

The Cougars’ weak-side defenders did a great job of sagging into the lane in their man-to-man scheme. That cut off the penetration of Briar Woods guards and limited post-entry passes. The Cougars also closed out quickly on the Falcons’ outside shooters.

“Just guard the middle,” Deliee said. “Don’t give up an easy layups.”

Kettle Run started allowing penetration in the third quarter, though, and Briar Woods narrowed its deficit to 39-31 by the end of the period. The Falcons did that by putting four players on the perimeter and leaving only one in the post.

“There [were] some dribble drives to the middle that we didn’t contend,” Washington said. “Fatigue might have had something to do with that.”

Hatcher did much of the damage that fueled Briar Wood’s rally.

“He was just driving, attacking it,” Eldridge said.

Hatcher, who averages about 20 points per game, scored 18 of his team-high 20 points Friday in second half.

“We can’t wait for that to happen,” Benson said. “We weren’t getting him the ball in his normal situations” during the first half.

Meanwhile, Kettle Run’s usual leading scorer, Rashawn Latimer, scored only eight points.

“Connor Gaines did a real good job on [Latimer], which was a focus for us,” Benson said.

Latimer didn’t force shots either, though, which created opportunities to score for Deliee (13 points), Eldridge (12) and Eddie Benton (10).

Deliee played one of his best games this season despite coming off the bench rather than playing his usual role of starter. Washington cited missed practices due to strep throat for Deliee’s absence in the starting lineup.

The Kettle Run senior had also struggled to score during the first half of this season, though. He had no such problems Friday.

“Coach just wanted to … see if something new would work for me,” Deliee said of coming off the bench. “I came in after getting a good little view of the game – see how it was flowing – and I feel like that might be something that continues to happen. Starting’s not a big deal. It’s all about winning the game.”

Deliee also had 11 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and three steals – all team highs.

“He was relaxed and I thought he made plays because of his mindset,” Washington said. “He made some good passes and really got after it on defense.”

Benton also had 11 rebounds as well as two assists and two steals, while Eldridge had seven rebounds and two steals. Yancey added seven points, while Justus Drakeford had three assists.

For Briar Woods, Gaines had eight points, eight rebounds, five assists and three assists, while Darrell Ramey had seven points and Ryan Lam had five points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

During the opening four minutes of the game, the Falcons had four offensive rebounds, but they finished with only seven. Overall, Kettle Run out-rebounded Briar Woods, 37-25.

“We’ve got some pretty athletic guys down low,” a self-deprecating Deliee said. “And then we’ve got me.”

He, of course, led the Cougars in every statistical category, including rebounds.

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