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Kettle Run boys basketball blows huge lead but outlasts Warren Co.

Wednesday, Jan. 9 | By Jeff Malmgren
Kettle Run celebrates their 78-77 victory over Warren County on Tuesday. --Photo by Rick Wasser
The Kettle Run Cougars built such a huge lead Tuesday with their frenzied water-bug defense that they nearly drowned themselves.

Kettle Run built an 18-point lead in the first quarter using a man-to-man defense that featured frequent traps, which produce steals and open-court layups. The Cougars, however, appeared to fatigue themselves with that highly-productive yet frenetic pace.

So, by the end of the fourth quarter, Kettle Run actually had to rally from a deficit and then withstand two potential game-winning shots by the Warren County Wildcats in order to escape Front Royal with a 78-77 victory.

“We should have never blew the lead in the first place,” senior guard Travis Williams said.

However, Warren County’s rally set up Williams to make the winning shot on a pull-up jumper with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth.

“With all the pressure on him,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said.

Trailing 78-77, Kettle Run coach Troy Washington drew up a play during a timeout, but it never developed properly on the court. So Williams ended up catching a swing pass on the perimeter as time wound down. He took a few quick dribbles in from the right wing to avoid Warren County’s rotating defense and hit a mid-range jumper that proved to be the game-winner.

“I told coach in the huddle I wanted the ball,” said Williams, who finished with 15 points and five assists. “I felt like I was the best option to make the shot.”

Kettle Run starters Brendan Deliee, Rashawn Latimer and Christian Yancey had all fouled out, leaving Williams and Danny Mattson as the only go-to guys.

“Not necessarily the shot that we wanted, but the shot that worked,” Washington said. “It couldn’t happen for a better guy. Travis is, by far, our hardest worker.”

Williams’ shot fell through the net with 12 seconds still remaining in the quarter, though, so Warren County had time to take two decent shots. Matt Nicholson, who scored a game-high 29 points, took the first. After the Wildcats brought the ball up court, he drove to the right, but missed a short runner.

“I knew [he] was going to take the shot,” Williams said. “We eventually got three people on him and he took a tough shot.”

Warren County’s Joshua Owens grabbed the offensive rebound – the Wildcats’ 18th of the night – and passed the ball to Jontae Rollins, who took an open 3-point shot that narrowly missed.

“We were having déjà vu from last year,” Washington said. “When [Rollins] got a good look, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, please don’t go in.’”

Last season, Kettle Run led Warren County, 59-57, with nine second remaining in overtime Jan. 27, 2012. Then DeVaunte French made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Warren County a 60-59 victory.

“I remember distinctly, we did a little zone press and they threw over the top of it to where the shooter was,” Washington said. “I got a little emotional at the end [Tuesday] just because I felt good for the kids. We’ve been dealing with some adverse situations.”

Over the past two seasons Kettle Run amassed a 3-35 record. This season it has been outscored by at least 15 points in five games and has a 5-6 record overall. However, with the win over Warren County (4-7), the Cougars are 2-0 in Evergreen District play.

Kettle Run needed Williams’ heroics Tuesday because it blew the 26-8 lead it held at the end of the first quarter.

The Cougars gained that 18-point advantage by trapping Warren County’s ball-handlers and forcing 14 turnovers in the first period. Williams finished the game with six steals, while Latimer had four steals to go with 13 points and four assists.

“I hadn’t seen that from Kettle Run before. That surprised us a little bit,” Mathews said of the man-to-man trap. “We didn’t take care of the ball. … For a spell in the first quarter we were feeling bad for ourselves.”

The Cougars have used that frenetic defense more often recently, making them look like a different team than the one that lost four of its first five games.

The Wildcats recovered from their first quarter deficit thanks to dominant rebounding and the fatigued shots by Kettle Run. After making 12 of 19 shots (63 percent) in the first quarter, the Cougars made only 6 of 21 (29 percent) in the second quarter, allowing Warren County to narrow its deficit to 38-31 at halftime.

“We blew a lot of layups,” Latimer said.

Kettle Run led by as much as 36-14 in the second quarter, but Nicholson made consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 39-12 run that gave the Wildcats a 53-48 lead with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.

“Fatigue might have had something to do with it,” Washington said, “but also I think it was concentration and really focusing on making that shot.”

Meanwhile, the Wildcats out-rebounded the undersized Cougars, 55-28, and took a lead as large as 53-48 in the third quarter.

“That’s what turned the game,” Latimer said. “It wouldn’t have been a game if we boxed out. … We should have been up by 40.”

Latimer finally ended Warren County’s momentum midway through the fourth quarter. He set up Brendan Deliee for a layup to give Kettle Run a 58-57 lead and then got consecutive steals and converted them into layups to make the Cougars’ lead 62-57.

“He did just enough to get us over the top before he fouled out,” Washington said. “It was huge.”
Kettle Run’s lead got as large as 68-59 in the fourth.

Deliee led Kettle Run with 11 rebounds and 27 points. He also had three assists and two steals, while Danny Mattson had 17 points and six rebounds, and Lucas Costa had five rebounds and two steals.

For Warren County, Nicholson had 14 rebounds and four assists, while Michael Caldwell and Jontae Rollins had nine points each, and Owens had eight points and eight rebounds. Rollins also had four steals, while Blake Steele had 12 rebounds and Kris Deal had three assists.
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