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Wakefield outlasts Highland in boys basketball rivalry that’s new to some players

Saturday, Jan. 25 | By Jeff Malmgren
The Wakefield Owls celebrate after beating Highland, 72-69. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Wakefield-Highland rivalry seems to work like black mamba venom.

Wakefield's quartet of transfer students felt its effects almost immediately Saturday during their first experience as part of the boys basketball rivalry.

They noticed it as soon as they took the floor during warmups in a Highland gym that looked as full, and sounded as loud, as it ever has for the matchup. There were some stare-downs and some shoves. There were some technical fouls and an overtime period. And, eventually, there was a 72-69 win for Wakefield and a group of new Owls who embraced the rivalry.

"We really didn't understand it as much as the rest of the community did," Wakefield junior Andre Seadey said. "As the game kept going on, it started to click. It was really competitive and just a fun atmosphere."

Junior DeAndre Clark said he and his fellow transfer students took on the attitude of Wakefield's returning players.

"If they don't like Highland, we don't like Highland," Clark said. "We circled this game on the schedule. … The biggest win of the season for us. Because it's Highland."

To win, Wakefield (11-7) had to survive a 3-point attempt from the right corner by Highland's Rahji Johnson with one second remaining in overtime. That shot hit off the rim, unlike one the Hawks (6-6) took five minutes earlier.

From that same spot on the floor, Hawks junior Seth Kott had made a 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer to tie the score, 61-61, and force overtime.

Highland took a 65-63 lead midway through the overtime period, but the Owls rallied back to take a 72-68 lead on a Wil Rasmussen free throw with 4.9 seconds remaining.

The Hawks, however, got a late opportunity to tie with a 3-pointer because a referee called a technical foul on Seadey with those 4.9 seconds left. Traves Stolterfoht made one of two technical free throws, narrowing Wakefield's lead to 72-69, and then the Hawks got the final possession.

Seadey got the technical foul after stripping the ball from Logan Miller as the Highland senior tried to elevate for a 3-pointer. After the turnover, some of the Owls lingered near the Highland bench and a small scuffle broke out, ending with Seadey getting shoved.

"It was just heat of the moment," he said. "I guess that's just what happens in a rivalry. No hard feelings."

Wakefield's four transfer players – Seadey, Clark, Rasmussen and Brandon Wiseman – combined for 64 points and celebrated enthusiastically after the win.

"Like they've been here the whole time," Owls coach Tee Summers said. "They wanted it badly. It's easy to give up when somebody hits a little buzzer-beater to get the momentum and send it to overtime. But our guys, they weren't losing this game."

Wakefield trailed 34-32 at halftime, but the Owls took a lead as large as seven points in the third quarter. Clark sparked that rally.

The junior made a 3-pointer on a swing pass from Seadey and, simultaneously, Highland star Matt Kelley picked up his fourth foul underneath the basket, giving the Owls possession again. On the ensuing inbound play, Seadey again fed Clark, who made a 3-pointer, drew a foul and made the free throw.

That sequence gave Wakefield a 43-38 lead with 5 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and Clark added another 3-pointer 95 seconds later.

"DeAndre thrives for those moments," Summers said. "Ice in his veins."

Perhaps more importantly, Kelly had to return to the bench with four fouls. He committed his first foul – offensive – just 19 seconds into the game and sat for almost seven minutes between the second and third quarters.

"That was huge," Summers said. "He was the player that we thought could really hurt us. We were able to take him out of his rhythm."

Kelly finished with eight points and three assists, but didn't provide his usual post presence and ability to drive.

"It always hurts when we lose a guy like that. He's been foul prone," Hawks coach Jake Shechtman said. "It changes matchups defensively, but I don't know if it changes, big picture, what we want to do."

Even with Kelly limited, the Hawks erased a 50-43 deficit and forced overtime with three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and some driving layups that they had lacked much of the game.

Highland's outside shooting kept it within striking distance, though. The Hawks made 11 of 16 3-point attempts (69 percent) in the game.

"If we're moving the ball and get open looks, we certainly have plenty of kids who have free rein," Shechtman said. "A good shot is a good shot wherever it comes from.

Highland, on the other hand, attempted only 21 2-point field goals.

"At first, we were trying to force them to kick it out until we realized they had a lot of shooters," Summers said. "I told my guys, you have to stay in front of your man so they won't kick it out for a 3. Force them to go to the basket."

"They would just come down the court and hit one or two 3s and they were right back in the game," he said.

The Owls' victory was their third consecutive after suffering through a rough 1-6 stretch.

"If they can keep their focus and stay humble and keep the game fundamental, they can be really, really good," Summers said.

Wakefield is ranked No. 10 in the latest VISAA Division III poll and could move up after its recent play.

"We've got to do this every game – feed off this," Clark said. "We can't just say we beat Highland."

The Hawks, meanwhile, have lost four consecutive games.

"We're competing and we're close, but we're just not making enough plays to" win, Shechtman said. "We haven't strung together a complete game."

Miller led Highland with 18 points on four 3-pointers, while Rahji Johnson had 17 points on three 3s and Kott had 10 on two. Johnson added eight rebounds and two blocks, while Miller had seven rebounds and Kott had six.

For Wakefield, Clark had 25 points on five 3-pointers, while Rasmussen had 20 points and Seadey had 12. Seadey also had eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals.

"Coming into this season, I wasn't much of a scorer," Seadey said. "I was more of a pass-first guard. … My coach told me that for us to be successful that I had to become a threat. I've just been working on it."

Clark added eight rebounds and two steals, while Rasmussen had 13 rebounds, four blocks, three steals, three assists and a dunk. He had plenty of motivation.

"When I walked in and saw the huge crowd I thought, 'This is something big," Rasmussen said. "'It's something more" than usual.

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