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Fredericksburg Christian beats Highland boys for DAC tourney title

Saturday, Feb. 23 | By Jeff Malmgren
--Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
If asked to miss a shot, the Fredericksburg Christian Eagles might have failed.

They made 31 of 50 field goal attempts (62 percent) Saturday en route to winning the Delaney Athletic Conference Division I tournament championship game in Warrenton, 83-60, over the Highland Hawks.

"We thought we had a pretty good read on what they wanted to do, but they made shots," Highland coach Jake Shechtman said. "They shot terrifically."

The Eagles' victory served as revenge for a 61-52 loss to Highland on Feb. 8 in Fredericksburg, which cost the Eagles an outright regular season championship. Fredericksburg Christian ended up as co-champion with Highland, giving the Hawks their first title since 2008.

"It feels good," Highland junior Matt Kelly said of that co-title. "It hasn't happened in a while and they've dominated us the last few years."

Both Fredericksburg Christian and Highland also qualified for the VISAA Division II state tournament. In the first round Tuesday, the eighth-seeded Eagles (20-9) were scheduled to host No. 9 Hampton Roads, while No. 10 Highland (19-7) was scheduled to play at No. 7 Norfolk Christian.

"I still feel really good about our team,” Shechtman said after the loss Saturday. “I'm happy with where we are. I'm happy with what we've become.”

Highland’s win over the Eagles on Feb. 8 was part of a 9-1 streak that followed a loss to Fredericksburg Christian at home Jan. 18, 72-45.

"We felt like we had a lot of momentum, but we could never get a run going," Kelly said of the game Saturday at Highland. "We're a lot better on the road. I don't know why."

Since losing to Highland in January, the Eagles lost their starting center, A.J. Addison. It took a while to adjust, but they looked comfortable Saturday.

"We had to reinvent ourselves with more of a spread pick-and-roll style," Fredericksburg coach Darren Berkley said. “But we want to play fast. We're not really that great in the half court.”

The Eagles’ half-court offense worked fine Saturday. They drove to the basket successfully, which also opened up shooters. Thanks to Fredericksburg's 9-for-19 3-point shooting, the Hawks suffered from an inability to defend the entire floor.

The Eagles took a 22-15 lead by the end of the first quarter, led 46-27 at halftime and had a 68-47 advantage by the end of the third quarter. DAC Player of the Year DeLante' Victory led that charge. He finished with a game-high 24 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and one block, while Aaron Alexander added 24 points and three assists, and Daryl Myers had 13 points and three assists.

"They can certainly all shoot, but the hardest thing to deal with is No. 14, DeLante' Victory,” Shechtman said. “There's a reason he was Player of the Year. He's certainly our focus when we play them.”

Meanwhile, Matt Kelly led Highland with 13 points and six rebounds, while Spencer Rose had 13 points and five rebounds off the bench. Logan Miller added 12 points, three assists and two steals, while Dylan Gaither had eight points and four rebounds, and Rahji Johnson had eight points and three assists.

Kelly kept Highland within striking distance in the first quarter, 16-13, by scoring eight consecutive points from the post.

“Matt's gotten so much better from this time last year,” Shechtman said. “He finishes really well at the rim – strong, tough kid. He's certainly helped us out a lot.”

Unfortunately, he got minimal looks the rest of the game as the Hawks often rushed shots elsewhere.

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