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Just Brew It column: A basketball odyssey of 3 games, 2 hours, 1 night

Monday, Dec. 16 | By Peter Brewington
Highland guard Logan Miller might have been the best ball-handler Peter Brewington saw as he traveled around the county watching games last Friday night. -Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
You can learn a lot about a basketball team watching them play for a few minutes.

Immediately you notice if a team has a competent point guard and/or big man, how they handle the ball and work together. Whether they appear confident and cohesive, and if they can score, rebound and play defense.

You can see all that in literally one minute — so to see a team play for eight minutes, you can learn even more and get an accurate handle on a team’s personality and ability.

With that premise in mind, I watched the Highland School, Wakefield School and Kettle Run boys basketball teams all play last Friday night. That’s right, it was three teams, one night, in about two hours – all thanks to my 2009 Mazda6 with 125,000 miles, and staggered start times.

I love basketball, so it was fun.

Full confession: I wouldn’t have done it if Liberty wasn’t playing its season opener at Chancellor, which was almost a 90-minute trip from Warrenton when you consider all the darned traffic in the Fredericksburg commercial area Chancellor is located in.

I planned to cover the Eagles’ season debut, but didn’t want to drive down there, so l looked at alternative basketball universes.

I found three.

Thank you, schedule maker. My mission started at Wakefield at 5:30 p.m.

Wakefield’s game was the first in its two-day, star-studded Life and Breath Tournament.

It usually features former USA TODAY national champion Montrose Christian of Rockville, Md. While there was no Montrose magic in the house this year (the team is taking the year off, apparently), the event still felt the same, with a warm and cozy feeling inside Wakefield’s tiny gym, and announcer/athletic director Paul Sipes somehow playing the role of standup comic while working the PA mike.

Wakefield used to be one of the least talented teams in the field, serving as cannon fodder to Montrose, but this year the tournament hosts are suddenly high entertainment, with a really well-balanced lineup.

The most exciting new Wakefield player is probably DeAndre Clark, who may be the best 3-point shooter in the county this year. Clark drilled several impressive threes, and looked like he could make 15 3-pointers and score 45 a night.

The Owls also had another star player named Will Rasmussen, a 6-foot-3 sophomore wingman who looked vaguely familiar. Then it hit me: Rasmussen used to play for Kettle Run. He was a promising freshman when star seniors Danny Mattson and Brendan Deliee were sophomores. By my math Rasmussen should be a junior, but he must have been held back a year.

Rasmussen is an angular swing man that can stroke it and contributes an inside-outside presence.

Wakefield had three other key players in junior guard Brandon Wiseman, who takes it to the basket well; junior guard Andre Ahiagbede, who is a capable ballhander and unselfish; and senior forward Cavan Mulcahy, a rugged defender who took a few charges and can hit threes.

I saw most of the first half of a very close and exciting game with Landon School. Unfortunately I did not stick around for Wakefield’s second half surge, which ended with a 65-50 Wakefield win.

I had another team to write about, and schedule to keep.

I carefully motored down the hill on slick roads from Wakefield and trekked down to Highland. I arrived late in the second quarter, got a BBQ and cole slaw for $4 and sat down in the far bleachers and stretched out.

Highland was beating Fredericksburg Academy easily, and while there were plenty of fans there, too, it was less intense scene.

As I watched, I had an ah-hah moment, thinking Wakefield’s talent might be better than Highland’s this year.

Highland lacks its great depth at guard of recent years, but should hum nicely thanks to the sweet moves of smooth Logan Miller, who was sensational.

A superb ballhandler, Miller made one penetrating drive after another to the basket. He had great footwork and took the ball on a hard, straight line to the rim, showing ability to finish adeptly with either hand.

Power forward Matt Kelly also looked more bulked up and dominating.

I did not get a chance to see Rahji Johnson play since he sat the entire second quarter with foul trouble. He is certainly one of the Hawks’ top three players.

After a stop for gas at the Shell Station in New Baltimore, I got to Kettle Run in time to see most of the second quarter.

I arrived at a tense, but festive time. The Cougars were struggling with a scrappy Park View team, but there was a nice vibe in the house.

Moments after I walked in, Eddie Benton threw down a breakaway dunk.

Still, the Cougars appeared disjointed. Kettle Run was playing too fast, and looked uncomfortable. While a lineup led by proven veterans Rashawn Latimer, Brendan Deliee and Danny Mattson makes the Cougars one of the best returning Class 3A teams in the state, they just weren’t playing that efficiently.

Latimer’s four 3-pointers in the second quarter made it OK though.

They blew out Park View in the second half, and won 67-39, taking charge while I was on I-66 booking home to Fairfax County.

So how would I rate the three teams I saw?

Surprise, surprise. It was a small sampling, but I’d give Wakefield the highest grade for early season cohesiveness and potential. They can be something.

I’d say Highland has a lot to prove still. Their two games with Wakefield will be interesting.

As for Kettle Run, I’m sure they’ll look better on my next visit.

They had problems with rebounding and executing their set offense, but it was only the second game of the year.

And honestly, while my impressions were legitimate, it might have been a little more fair if I stayed longer.

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