Drakeford’s deadeye free throw shooting sends Cougars to boys basketball regionals
--Photo By Doug Stroud
Justus Drakeford probably hadn’t been to the foul line that many times in a game in his life, much less in the final minute, 19 seconds when he shot ten free throws.
Anointed the responsibility of closing out Kettle Run’s difficult Conference 27 tournament semifinal road win Wednesday night, the backup senior guard was up to the task, drilling eight of ten free throws down the stretch as the No. 3-seeded Cougars held off host No. 2 seed Spotsylvania, 76-67.
The huge win advanced the Cougars (15-5) to the Conference 27 championship game at Culpeper Friday night, and ensured the team a berth in next week’s regionals.
“Give credit to Justus. Those came at a very difficult time. He stepped up big,” said coach Troy Washington
The Cougars won by taking control in the third quarter and surviving a final furious comeback effort by the Knights (11-8), who seemed all but dead, trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter before mounting two strong comebacks.
Each time Kettle Run stayed poised and answered offensively.
After Rashawn Latimer’s floater gave the Cougars a 48-39 lead to open the fourth, Spotsylvania got back-to-back 3-pointers by Bilal Marlowe and Darius Carter to cut the deficit to 48-45.
After the Knights (11-8) closed to 54-53 with 4:35 left, Kettle Run rebuilt the lead to 58-53 on clutch short jumpers by Drakeford, who assertively attacked the basket and hit a short pullup, and Brendan Deliee, who also drove to the basket, then calmly reversed direction, backed up and swished a clever 10-footer with 3:53 to go.
The Cougars’ lead grew to 63-56 when David Eldridge absorbed contact and scored an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:43 to go.
The last three minutes took almost 15 minutes to play as Spotsy kept fighting.
The Knights drew to 65-61 with 1:23 to go, but the Cougars never turned it over the rest of the way as Drakeford (eight points) and Latimer (three) scored the team’s last 11 points by making a combined 11 of 14 from the charity stripe.
Kettle Run got balanced scoring as Latimer scored 24 points, Eddie Benton had 18, Danny Mattson 11 and Drakeford 10.
The Cougars ultimately clamped down on Spotsylvania’s outside shooting threats, and more or less stopped the low post scoring of the Knights’ bruising 6-foot-5, 250-pound forward Bradley Anderson, who scored 23 points on a cluster of short putbacks and offensive rebounds.
The loss greatly disappointed the host Knights, who beat Kettle Run 58-45 back on Jan. 18. A scheduled second meeting was not played, leaving Spotsylvania as the No. 2 seed and host for this game.
Spotsylvania’s biggest leads were 17-11 in the first quarter and 29-25 just before halftime.
But Spotsylvania was guilty of a letdown before intermission as Latimer scored five straight points in the last 47 seconds of the second quarter, including two breakaway layups, as Kettle Run stormed into halftime with a 30-29 edge.
“This loss hurt,” said Spotsylvania’s big man Anderson. “Kettle Run played a good game. We did not play especially tough defense. We were not getting back.”
“We played terrible defense,” said teammate Darius Carter.
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