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Kettle Run boys basketball returns with guard depth, better post presence in Benton

Thursday, Dec. 5 | By Jeff Malmgren

Danny Mattson is one of four returning starters for Kettle Run. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
It's a common basketball mantra: "Guard play wins championships."

Well, five guards composed the Kettle Run Cougars' starting lineup last season. They finished with a 12-13 record after losing in the first round of the region tournament. A strong post player may have given that record a significant boost.

Now the Cougars have that presence in the paint, they think.

Eddie Benton, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, has moved into Kettle Run's starting lineup after the Cougars lost only one starter following last season. They have high expectations with Benton in the middle.

"I think we can go all the way to states," Kettle Run senior guard Brendan Deliee said. "If we work hard, I think we've got it in us.”

Others have high expectations for the Cougars, too. They are ranked No. 6 in Class 3A by Virginiapreps.com.

"We've got something to prove," Deliee said. "We turned it around last year and were pretty decent, but we want more."

After starting the 2012-13 season with a 1-4 run, Kettle Run went 6-3 down the stretch to win the Evergreen District tournament title and a share of the regular season championship with Liberty and Fauquier. They lost, though, in the quarterfinals of the Region II Division 3 tournament, 76-70, to Monticello.

Deliee and senior guards Rashawn Latimer, Danny Mattson and Christian Yancey are Kettle Run's returning starters. Each excelled most on the perimeter as shooters and drivers. Deliee, however, spent some time out of position in the paint to keep all five starters from lurking on the perimeter.

"We thought with last year's team … that if we had gotten just consistent contributions out of our post play that would have made us much better," Cougars coach Troy Washington said. "That's one of our goals – to get the ball inside in the confines of what we're trying to do in our offense."

Last season, Benton came off the bench to help a unit that struggled to rebound at times. Now he'll look to control the lane from jump for Kettle Run.

"He just got better at everything," Deliee said. "He got stronger, bigger, faster. He can shoot the ball, work people in the paint. …I feel like it's going to make a difference this year. We've got a solid team all around."

Rounding out Kettle Run’s roster are senior guards Tyler Williams and Justus Drakeford, senior forward Nick DelAuila, junior guard David Eldridge, sophomore guard Jared Newcomer and freshman guards Dean Smith, Grayson Reigel and Austin Malone. DelAguila and Deliee can help the Cougars in the post, but Benton will be the mainstay.

"By far, Eddie was our hardest worker in the summer. Things just clicked for him," Washington said. "It’s starting to show in his play and it's starting to show in his confidence level. … Last year and we thought he was set up for greatness."

Latimer led the Cougars in scoring last season en route to making the all-Region II first second team, while Deliee and Mattson made the all-district second team. They don’t plan to rest on their laurels, though.

"Last year is done and over," Latimer said. "We have to prove ourselves this year. … We've been working on being better this year. A lot better."

"We have more chemistry," he said.

Four returning starters often has that effect.

"The longer I do this, the more I think that maturity and experience go a long way in your success," Washington said. "But we're not a finished product by any means. Even with the experience we have coming back."

Four players, for example, are still in the early stages of transitioning from football to basketball season and have only a handful of practices under their belts.

Yancey, for example, will likely eventually slide into the starting point guard position left vacant following the graduation of Travis Williams. Tyler Williams, Travis' brother, will also help with point guard duties, especially early in the season.

"We'd like to think we're flexible handling the ball," Washington said. "Rashawn can handle it at some point, and Tyler Williams. Danny and Brendan, despite their size, they can handle it a little bit."

Mattson, another football player, will also likely move back into the starting lineup with Newcomer also getting some starting time after coming off the bench last season.

Varsity newcomers like Eldridge and Drakeford could also add some athleticism off the bench after getting acclimated following football season.

"We're going with a rotation of guys that have been going with us since day one" of practice, Washington said. "There's going to be some other guys that end up in the rotation, but they're just not ready yet."

Virginia High School League went through a reclassification following last season, so the Cougars will play in Conference 27 and the Class 3A East Region.

They will also still compete in the Evergreen District against a majority of schools larger than Kettle Run. Eastern View and Culpeper joined Fauquier, Liberty, Brentsville and Kettle Run in the district for this season.

"I always thought that our district was already tough, but then you add Eastern View and Culpeper," Washington said. "And then you add in the conference and the entire 3A. It makes it very challenging.

"I don' t know if our kids have realized the magnitude of the teams we're going to play," he said. "It's a who's who of basketball in our district, our conference and the entire 3A East" region.

Conference 27 is composed of James Monroe, Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Manassas Park, Brentsville and Kettle Run.

"There's certain teams we don't think we can get up and down with," Washington said, but not specifically about Conference 27 teams. "At certain spots, we are challenged athletically. … We try to be a team that can play up-tempo if we need to, but we'd also like to think that we're a type of team that if we need to play in a half court, we can."

Having Benton in the post could be the key.

Regardless, the Cougars' guards showed last season that they excel in the open court.

"We ain't the biggest," Deliee said. "But we like to run."

- - - - -

Projected Starting Lineup

PG Christian Yancey, Sr.* †
G Danny Mattson, Sr.*†
G Rashawn Latimer, Sr.*
G Brendan Deliee, Sr.*
F Eddie Benton, Sr.

*returning starter
†football player who won't start early in season; replaced by Tyler Williams, Sr.
†football player who won't start early in season; replaced by Jared Newcomer, So.

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