Christian Yancey took off his nice suit jacket to start the second half of Friday’s clash with Fauquier.
The Kettle Run boys basketball coach was doing the sartorial equivalent of rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work for the thrilling 16 final minutes of a no-holds-barred intra-county tussle at Fauquier.
The Cougars, coming off a 52-46 win at Sherando on Thursday, hoped to overcome a two-point halftime deficit in a rugged game characterized by off-kilter shooting by both teams.
The Falcons led 21-19 but Fauquier’s offense was off target too, missing every shot outside of six feet, and looking uncomfortable against the Cougars’ shifting 2-3 zone which Yancey employed in the second quarter and stuck with.
After intermission nothing went Kettle Run’s way. Scoring leader Drew Tapscott just missed a short bank shot to open the third quarter and it deteriorated from there as Fauquier pulled away for a 51-37 victory.
After going stone cold from the outside in the first half, the Falcons drilled four second half 3-pointers, two by Thurman Smith and one each from Hunter Lamper and Evan Jackson as the offense awoke.
“We knew they had (standout guard) Devin (Lewis) so we keyed on him, slowed him down, but then they got everybody else going and rode the wave. It’s hard to stop,” said Kettle Run senior Drew Tapscott.
Fauquier was also solid from the free throw line, making 19 of 25 for 76 percent. The Falcons were 11-for-11 in the first half, which helped them since their shooting was ice-cold.
“We had to have this one,” said Fauquier coach Wayne Brizzi, whose Falcons improved to 5-3 and 2-3 in the Northwestern District.
“They brought the high intensity they always do. Fundamental team. We were in it the whole game and they pulled away towards the end,” said Tapscott.
While Kettle Run was playing its second game in two nights and may have been fatigued, Fauquier was playing its second in nearly three weeks and could have been rusty.
Coming off a shaky first half, Fauquier outscored Kettle Run 7-0 to open the third quarter, taking advantage of five straight Cougar empty possessions to build a 28-19 lead.
After Cooper Gohlmann’s 3-pointer from the left corner cut Fauquier’s lead to 28-22, the Falcons got a Smith layup and Jackson 3-pointer to lead 33-22 with 2:35 left in the third.
“We got Thurman going, he’s a great shooter,” said Fauquier forward Marc Bonnaire.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Smith finished with a team-high 14. Sam Matthews had 12, including 8-for-8 on free throws, and Devin Lewis 11.
Lewis had an interesting game. As the Falcons’ top ballhandler and scoring threat, he rarely leaves the floor, although coach Wayne Brizzi uses all 11 players.
Although he missed shots, Lewis was reliable from the line, making 7-of-8 free throws. “It’s all about repetition,” he said about Fauquier’s accurate free throw shooting.
In the third quarter, Lewis crumpled to the floor theatrically, running into the backcourt and tumbling in a heap due to a cramp.
“The salt tablets really worked,” said Lewis, who missed about three minutes.
Fauquier outscored Kettle Run 15-5 in the third to lead 36-24, then built their fourth quarter lead to 18 at 45-27 on Bonnaire’s layup.
In the final analysis, Kettle Run lost due to its offensive struggles. Scoring leader Drew Tapscott had a game-high 15, but didn’t hit his first 3-pointer until late. Jacob Robinson had seven and Jordan Tapscott six.
“I don’t think it was anything they did, we just didn’t hit shots. We have guys that make that shot consistently and didn’t make that shot today,” Yancey said.
Tapscott is a powerful guard who likes to use his body to drive to the basket and complements his game with his outside shot. He could have had 25 points if he made more shots.
“Usually those shots fall, tonight they weren’t falling. I should have got to the hole more and went to the free throw line because my free throws were falling,” said Tapscott, who made 10 of 14 free throws.
“Coach says it’s an ebb and flow season. You’re gonna have your ups and downs. We got to build off the ups and make sure there are more ups than downs," Tapscott said.
Hired at the ripe young age of 23, Yancey, a 2014 KRHS grad, said he’s enjoying the baptismal season and is having some success. Kettle Run is 2-4 in conference play, which is encouraging considering it's not an experienced squad.
Yancey has tweaked his lineup, installing talented freshman guard Jordan Tapscott, who is a dynamic shooter, and senior forward Trevor Yergey, who hit the winning shot in a 69-68 win at Culpeper on Jan. 3.
“It’s exciting, we all have positive energy, we’re trying to build a culture beyond basketball. We’re gonna ebb and we’re gonna flow,” said Yancey.
The zone Yancey employed was also effective in keeping the Falcons in check.
“It’s a pretty interesting zone. It’s a little odd. We get after it, we like to trap and really get after it. It confuses some people. At times we got lost in our zone and didn’t get to the shooters we identified,” Yancey said.
The Falcons hit no outside shots in the first half, scoring all their points on 11-for-11 free throw shooting and five field goals from close range.
Yancey also joked about his routine with taking off his suit coat.
“I try to switch it up. I’ve been switching it up with the tie and the jacket. I say I’m not superstitious but I’m ‘stitious.’ I’m trying to get some mojo, I’m trying to figure it out,” he said.
Kettle Run next plays at Millbrook on Tuesday, Jan. 14, while Fauquier is at James Wood that night.