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Highland beats Kettle Run in title game of Winter Classic boys basketball tournament

Sunday, Dec. 29 | By Abby Seitz
Highland's Logan Miller tries to score over Kettle Run's Eddie Benton during a 77-62 victory in the championship game of the Winter Classic boys basketball tournament. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
It's not a stretch to call Highland the best boys basketball team in Fauquier County, for now.

So say the results of the Fauquier County Winter Classic after the Hawks' convincing 77-62 win over previously undefeated Kettle Run in the boys championship game Saturday night at Fauquier High.

Highland (5-2) dominated early, leading 41-25 at halftime. Despite Kettle Run’s second half efforts, Highland still won comfortably.

Kettle Run, now 7-1, played without starting guard Danny Mattson, who sprained his ankle the previous night in a 52-50 win over Fauquier. Still, it was a remarkable accomplishment for the Hawks, who rarely meet county public schools, and got a chance to show their skills over two nights by beating both Liberty and Kettle Run by double digits.

The four-team event, which included all three Fauquier County public schools, ended with Kettle Run in second, Fauquier third and Liberty fourth. Fauquier improved to 5-3 by beating Liberty (0-8), 44-29, in the consolation game.

"(Kettle Run) was right on par for the schools we usually play. We try to play public schools," said Highland coach Jake Shechtman, whose team sprinted away from the Cougars early and weathered Kettle Run's inevitable second half comeback.

“I thought we came out somewhat lethargic,” Kettle Run coach Troy Washington said. “I give (Highland) a lot of credit because they came out really energized and they were on their p’s and q’s from jump street. We dug ourselves a hole and we fought back; we cut it late in the game.”

In the first quarter, Highland’s offense took command, as Rahji Johnson scored 11 points. Johnson’s four points in the last minute put Highland up, 23-5. The Hawks were also able to take advantage of Kettle Run’s six fouls.

“That initial punch was really big,” Washington said. “There was some frustration over the fouls, but that’s a mental thing. We were telling the kids in the huddle to stay strong through that.”

Highland’s power continued into the second quarter, as Johnson and guard Logan Miller scored five points each. In the last two minutes, four Cougars scored two points each, bringing the score from 41-17 to 41-25.

“[At halftime] we just told the kids we were a better basketball team than we were playing,” Washington said. “We give Highland credit, but at the same time, if we aren’t playing up to our standard, that’s just not acceptable. We went in to try and chip away at the lead.”

The halftime pep-talk worked, as Kettle Run’s momentum carried over to the third quarter.

Brendan Deliee’s seven points led Kettle Run in the third quarter and Eddie Benton and David Eldridge both contributed four points.

“We were running the game to the best of our ability, getting guys open, and getting good shots and layups,” Benton said. “Once we had our legs under us, we took off.”

By the end of the quarter, Highland still led by 15 at 60-45.

“It seemed like every time we climbed up the hill, we got knocked down the hill because they’d make a better play,” Washington said.

The fourth quarter began with a dunk by Benton, continuing the team’s offensive surge. Kettle Run managed to come within six points, but Miller's six points in the last three minutes pushed Highland's lead to the safe range.

“We got off to a strong start, but we expected them to come back,” Highland's Jake Shechtman said. “We hung together and we were resilient. We executed down the stretch.”

Seth Kott's 19 polnts led Highland, followed by Logan Miller with 16, Mark Terrell with 12 and Rahji Johnson and Nicholas Sim with 11 each.

Benton led the Cougars with 19, followed by Brendan Deliee with 15, David Eldridge with 12 and Justus Drakeford 10.

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