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Ridin’ The Pine column: Most boys basketball teams have taken flight without issue

Wednesday, Jan. 15 | By Jeff Malmgren
Jeremiah Blackwell and the Fauquier Falcons look like they will content for the Conference 22 championship. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
I have airlines on the mind and a basketball column to write.

So bear with me as I cram a round-ball peg into a plane-shaped hole.

First, some basketball: The local high school boys teams emerged from the holidays in surprising positions – at least to me. Fauquier is second in Conference 22 (as of Monday afternoon) despite a roster of myriad unproven players.

Liberty, meanwhile, sits last in Conference 22 and still hasn’t won a game – a sight I’ve never seen before in Bealeton. And Kettle Run has yet to lose in Conference 27 despite playing all but a few games without its leading scorer.

Plus, Wakefield and Highland have shown they are the best teams in Fauquier County with both near the top of the Delaney Athletic Conference standings.

I couldn’t have predicted any of that at season’s start.

Now, some flying: Plenty of people experienced delays and cancellations over the holidays because of the weather. Airlines can’t be blamed too much for that, though. A little bad weather in one spot can cause an uncontrollable chain reaction across the country.

American Airlines, however, managed to add to the misery of a small group of people in Milwaukee, myself included. What began as a planned flight to Chicago to catch a connecting flight headed elsewhere (Washington D.C. in my case), turned into a bus ride to Chicago and an all-but extortion of money for hotel rooms.

Among that small group in Milwaukee was a young couple I met Friday. They had been trying all day fly to Toronto via Chicago.

The couple flew into Chicago early Friday, but then their connecting flight to Toronto got canceled. So, American set them up with a flight to Milwaukee, where they were supposed to find a different connecting flight to Toronto. Once in Milwaukee, however, they found their flight to Toronto had been canceled again.

Naturally, American decided to put them on bus back to Chicago with the promise of a complimentary hotel room and a flight the next morning to Toronto. But once they arrived in Chicago for the second time that day, American refused to pay for the hotel room and warned that their morning flight to Toronto could also be canceled.

I think the Liberty basketball team can sympathize with that couple. The Eagles have tried desperately to get into the win column this season, and they’ve come tantalizingly close, but they’ve ultimately gone nowhere.

With a 0-9 record (0-4 conference), Liberty is right where it started the season – as a team without a win.

And this is a Liberty program that won at least a share of the Evergreen District regular season championship each of the past five seasons.

The Eagles’ struggles seem unprecedented. They will win a game eventually, and it will feel great, but frustration will probably be the lasting emotion from this season.

Fauquier, on the other hand, is the mythical holiday airplane that took off without delay – to extend the metaphor/analogy.

I thought the loss of Dillon Tapscott and Caleb Lantz following last season would cripple the Falcons in 2013-14.

But Jeremiah Blackwell and Jay Jay Roberts have seamlessly taken the reins of this team. The Falcons have a 7-3 record overall and, better yet, are 4-1 in the conference. Previously inexperienced players like Travis Croson, Elijah Barbour and LaReco Robinson have become solid role players.

Kettle Run, however, might be having the most surprising season (Thankfully, I’m out of airline parallels).

I assumed the Cougars would be a state contender, but that was before they lost Rashawn Latimer for an undisclosed reason two games into the season.

Kettle Run kept stride without him, though, and has a 8-2 record. The Cougars are one win behind conference-leading Culpeper as Brendan Deliee, Eddie Benton and Danny Mattson have filled the stat sheet in the absence of Latimer, who has since returned.

Meanwhile, in the DAC, Wakefield has gone 3-1 (8-7 overall) with an influx of talented transfer players. I haven’t seen them play yet, but I’m looking forward to their game Jan. 25 against Highland.

The Hawks’ Matt Kelly is one of my favorite local players to watch. A versatile athlete, he’s one of few players in Fauquier County over the past five years capable of scoring consistently in the post.

With Kelly, Logan Miller and Rahji Johnson, I assumed Highland (6-2, 2-0) would easily beat Wakefield this season.

Now I’m not so sure.

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