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With points hard to come by, Wakefield edges Highland in boys basketball

Tuesday, Feb. 11 | By Jeff Malmgren
Andre Seadey had four points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds during Wakefield's 45-37 win over Highland on Tuesday. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Wakefield Owls lowered the speed limit in The Plains on Tuesday.

They previously played a fast-paced boys basketball game Jan. 25 against the Highland Hawks in Warrenton and barely escaped with a three-point win in overtime. So the Owls decided to slow the tempo Tuesday in an effort to reduce Highland’s possessions.

It worked. Wakefield held the Hawks to a season-low point total and beat them, 45-37, at home in The Plains.

“We like to push the ball and run in transition,” Wakefield junior Andre Seadey said, “but our goal throughout the week … was we just wanted to work the ball around [offensively] and stay strong on defense.”

Seadey, the Owls’ point guard, enforced that speed limit. When the Owls (16-8) didn’t have a clear fastbreak opportunity, he typically walked the ball up the court against Highland (11-7).

“He can control the tempo. That’s one of the most important factors, especially as a point guard,” Owls coach Tee Summers said. “Awesome job. … When we wanted to go fast, he moved the ball up the floor. When we wanted to slow it down and make them play defense … he got us into the [half-court] offense.”

Playing under control limited Wakefield’s turnovers to eight in the game. The Owls, in fact, didn’t commit a single turnover during the opening 15 minutes of the first half, which allowed them to work the ball around in their half-court offensive sets as significant time elapsed.

It also limited the transition field goals that Highland often thrives on.

“They took care of the ball,” Hawks coach Jake Shechtman said. “Any time you don’t turn the ball over, that limits our transition opportunities, and we love to get out and run.”

Highland averaged 67 points per game prior to Tuesday and had never scored fewer than 44 points in a game. Wakefield’s methodical offense contributed to the Hawks’ low-scoring night, but the Owls’ defense did as well.

Wakefield played strictly man-to-man defense after previously mixing in a zone defense during its first meeting this season with Highland, a 72-69 win. The Hawks rarely found holes in Wakefield’s defense Tuesday and struggled to penetrate.

“They put tremendous pressure on the ball and it really forces our ball-handlers to kind of turn away from where we want to look,” Shechtman said. “It pushes us away from the basket. We’re not able to set as many screens. We’re not able to find as many cutters.”

“We played right into their hands,” Hawks senior Matt Kelly said. “It’s just our lack of smarts on offense all night. … We weren’t moving the ball.”

Highland took an early 7-2 lead in the first quarter and finished the period with a 9-8 advantage. Wakefield, however, began the second quarter on a 7-2 run, taking the lead for good at 13-11 on a Wil Rasmussen layup off a full-court pass from Seadey.

Cavan Mulcahy later banked in a 3-pointer off a Seadey pass with two seconds remaining in the second period, giving the Owls a 24-14 halftime lead.

Wakefield’s lone turnover of the first half happened with only 52 seconds remaining.

“That first half was beautiful,” Summers said. “The last eight games we’ve been much better in limited our turnovers.”

“At the beginning of the year we were kind of just – push; go up tempo,” Seadey said. “But as the year has gone on our coach has been telling us each possession matters. Each of us is trying to take care of the ball.”

Highland, however, forced four Owls turnovers in the third quarter and mounted a small rally. The Hawks held Wakefield to four points in that period and narrowed the Owls’ lead to 28-24 early in the fourth quarter.

“Our main goal was to move the ball and make them play defense,” Summers said of the third period. “If we were taking time off the clock, that was to our benefit.”

Highland never cut Wakefield’s lead to fewer than four points in the fourth quarter as the Owls made some timely field goals and went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Neither team shot well from the field, with the Hawks going 14-for-40 (35 percent) and the Owls going 16-for-46 (35 percent), but Wakefield made 11 of 13 free throws (85 percent) in the game, while Highland made only 7 of 15 (47 percent).

In fact, like the Hawks, Wakefield finished the game with a season-low in points.

“We really try to drill in from Day One of our season to be able to kind of sit and be able to play defense for 10-15 seconds” each possession, Shechtman said. “I thought our guys stayed patient and stayed tough.”

Highland, however, couldn’t turn defensive rebounds into transition baskets, which hampered its offensive production. That reflected the Owls’ ability to dictate the pace of the game.

Seadey finished with only four points, but he helped control the tempo. He also had game highs with six assists and six steals, as well as five rebounds.

“There are so few high school players that have the maturity to play within themselves, to not try and do too much, to make simple plays,” Shechtman said. “He’s a terrific example.”

Junior guard Brandon Wiseman also played well for Wakefield after a relatively quiet game against Highland in January. He finished Tuesday with 14 points and six rebounds.

“One thing I did focus on is getting more shots to the hoop,” he said. “Whenever you have the opportunity to take your man … take it.”

The Owls won despite playing without junior guard DeAndre Clark, who led Wakefield over Highland in January with 25 points on five 3-pointers. He sat out for undisclosed reasons Tuesday – “Coach’s decision,” Summers said – and his absence played into Wakefield’s strategy.

“We were missing one of our leading scorers, so we just had to do everything we could to keep the game slow and keep Highland’s possession to a minimum because they’re a pretty powerful offensive team,” Summers said.

Kelly led the Hawks with 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals, while Rahji Johnson had eight points and seven rebounds, and Seth Kott had six points, four rebounds and two assists.

For Wakefield, Rasmussen had a game-high 15 points, plus six rebounds. Elie Mutombo added six rebounds and two assists, while Mulcahy had four rebounds and two steals.

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