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Mattson takes parting shots, Kettle Run leaves Liberty in district lead

Wednesday, Feb. 6 | By Jeff Malmgren
--Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Kettle Run's Danny Mattson scored 13 points during the final 13 minutes of a 72-71 victory over Liberty, including the game-winning three-point play. --Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Trailing by two points with less than 10 seconds remaining in overtime Tuesday, Kettle Run coach Troy Washington wanted his team to make one shot for victory — a 3-pointer.

Danny Mattson decided two shots worked better.

The Kettle Run junior made layup and a free throw to unseat the Liberty Eagles as leader in the Evergreen District with a 72-71 win on the road in Bealeton.

Washington's play design for a 3-point field goal never developed on the court, so Mattson became the latest player to make a game-winning shot for Kettle Run.

With Liberty leading 71-69, Mattson drove down the left side of the lane past the Eagles' Arber Krasniqi and got to the basket before any help arrived.

Mattson made a layup and drew enough contact to elicit a foul call. Then he made the ensuing game-winning free throw with 2.7 seconds remaining in overtime.

"My heart just dropped to my toes," Mattson said of making the shot. "I've never had that experience; a game-winner like that."

That onus typically falls on Rashawn Latimer, Brendan Deliee or Travis Williams. Latimer, for example, did the honors when Kettle Run last beat Liberty, 52-51, on Jan. 22.

Mattson said the final play Friday was again designed to get Latimer a shot, but it didn't materialize.

"We had to rearrange," Mattson said. "Someone's got to take over. I just figured, 'Step up for once and take it.' … It felt good to have my chance and finish the play."

"I was very proud of him," Latimer said. "I knew he could do it."

Kettle Run moved into the district lead as a result. Liberty still has the most wins in the Evergreen with a 6-2 final record, but the Cougars are 5-1 with two games remaining.

"It's like a championship game" playing for the district lead, Mattson said.

But "it's not over," Washington said. "I want the kids to be excited about it tonight, but then you've got to immediately flush it and go and play Brentsville tomorrow at their place. … Traditionally we have not played well there."

Kettle Run is scheduled to play at Brentsville on Wednesday and host Fauquier on Friday. With a pair of victories, the Cougars will become the first team other than Liberty to outright win an Evergreen regular season title.

While Kettle Run (9-11) beat the Eagles (11-11) twice this season, the Cougars entered 2012-13 with an 0-7 record against them. Latimer helped the Eagles get many of those past victories before transferring to Kettle Run following last season.

"It feels really great" to beat a former team, he said. "Our whole team wanted it really bad, not just me — other guys that have lost to Liberty in the past."

The Eagles could get another opportunity to play Kettle Run in the district tournament, which begins Feb. 13.

"We'll be back," Liberty senior Aaron Patterson said. "We just have to sit back and watch for now, but Brentsville and Fauquier are going to try and take them out. "

Patterson could also only watch as Mattson stepped up to the free-throw line at the end of the game Friday. Mattson had missed three of four free throws earlier in the game, but the ball hit nothing but net with 2.7 seconds remaining.

"Credit to him for having the confidence and the poise," Washington said. "That [game] was incredible. To keep clawing back, it's a testament to them. It's them believing."

Liberty took a lead as large as 61-46 with less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Kettle Run went on a 19-4 run to force overtime.

"When things don't go right it doesn't necessarily mean we're doomed for disaster," Washington said. "That [mentality] hadn't necessarily been our strong suit. … We're starting to learn" it.

Latimer capped the Cougars' fourth-quarter comeback with a pair of floaters in the lane during the final 63 seconds. He tied the game at 65-all with 23 seconds remaining and then Mattson blocked Liberty's ensuing shot to keep the game tied.

Kettle Run forced seven turnovers during the fourth quarter against the four-corner spread offense of Liberty.

"We weren't trying to stall," Eagles coach Pat Frazer said. "We spread it out in the third quarter and scored 18. We ran the same offense. … We've just got to take care of the ball."

Kettle Run entered the fourth quarter with only one foul in the second half, which helped encourage their aggressive defense.

"If we picked up fouls, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing because we were [eventually] going to try to get them into the one-and-one" bonus situation, Washington said.

After forcing overtime, the Cougars still fell behind 71-67 with 24.9 seconds remaining. Then Mattson drove for a layup with 16 seconds left, and Liberty's Xavier Colbert missed a bonus free throw (his second such miss in the final minute), which set up Mattson's three-point play.

"X missed them, but how much did he do for us?" Frazer said.

Colbert, in fact, finished with 23 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and two steals. Also, defensively, he held Latimer scoreless in overtime.

Latimer finished with a game-high 23 points, while Mattson scored 13 of his 17 points in final 13 minutes. Williams and Deliee added eight points each.

Deliee also had seven rebounds and two blocks, while Mattson had six rebounds and three blocks, Williams had six rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Christian Yancey had four assists and three steals.

For Liberty, C.J. Lindsay had 17 points and two steals, Patterson had 13 points, and Armend Krasniqi had nine rebounds, eight points, three assists and two steals.
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