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Kelly’s 19 points lead Highland over Liberty, 83-48, in boys hoops

Friday, Dec. 27 | By Peter Brewington

Highland's Matt Kelly scored a game-high
19 points. --Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
As hard as it is to believe, the perennially successful Liberty High boys basketball team is still looking for its first win of the year.

Highland kept that goal alive with a lopsided 83-48 win over the struggling Eagles (0-6) Friday night in the first round of the Fauquier County Winter Classic.

Although Liberty is a much larger school, there was no feeling on Highland’s part that this was an upset.

“It’s fun to be part of the community. It’s private vs. public schools in the county, it’s fun,” said winning coach Jake Shechtman, whose talented Hawks (4-2) advanced to play Kettle Run (7-0) in Saturday’s Winter Classic final at Fauquier High.

The Hawks unveiled a deadly inside-outside attack, and were the far more experienced team in dismantling Liberty in the third quarter.

After leading 33-21 at halftime, Highland outscored the Eagles 31-11 in the third quarter to lead 64-32 going into the fourth.

Senior post player Matt Kelly abused the Eagles inside with 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first six minutes of the third. All came on the low block off smooth spin moves. Three of Kelly’s baskets turned into old-fashioned three-point plays when Kelly was fouled and made the free throw.

Shechtman said Kelly is a relentless worker who practices those moves religiously. “We tell him to stay low (when he spins) and pivot off his jump stop,” said Shechtman.

Rahji Johnson was equally impressive from the outside. He drilled three 3-pointers in the quarter and finished with 13 points.

Nicholas Sim added 15 points, Mark Terrell 14 and Logan Miller six as the Hawks built their lead to 40 points at 78-38.

“The first half was to our pace. Some guys played well. The second half, I don’t know what that was,” said Liberty coach Pat Frazer.

Liberty’s Bailey Kestner, Tommy Smith and Hakeem Johnson led their team with seven points apiece.

“We’re going to keep battling. We’re going to get somebody,” Frazer. “Highland is good, but I know we can play with them.”

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