By Greg Brill -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Everyone knows what Matt Sherfey can do with his arm on the football field. But there's something else the all-district quarterback can do in a different season and in a different role -- cause havoc at the top of a pressure defense on the basketball court.
With Central and Warren County both struggling to gain momentum in a sloppy first few minutes of the second half Wednesday night, it was Sherfey's hounding of ballhandlers that got the Falcons going.
Central got rolling with a 14-0 run and the Falcons had another run ready in the fourth period when the Wildcats threatened to come back. Central also put four players in double-figures on opening night and picked up a 69-50 win.
In an ugly four-minute span to begin the third period, the teams had combined for seven points and one made basket. Part of the sloppy play can be reflected on good defense, and the team that played better defense the longest started to gain some distance in the third.
"Sometimes our defense outplays our offense and that's how we get a lot of our points," said Sherfey, who had a solid stat line of seven points, four rebounds, and two steals. "That's how you win a lot of games.
"In the second half we started to pick it up. Warren County's a tough team and we've always had trouble [winning] here over the last few years. I'm just glad we got our defense tuned up and started playing good defense. It made a difference."
Whenever a Wildcat tried to beat pressure, he had to contend with Sherfey.
Sherfey stayed with his man, sticking his hands in to cause steals or putting his stocky build on his man to force a bad pass or tough shot.
Leading by 3 with under four minutes left, Central got a fadeaway jumper off the glass from Michael Marston, who was fouled.
Marston completed his 3-point play, and an NBA-range 3-pointer from Aaron Heishman (21 points) followed.
"A lot of how we picked up our offense in the second half was due to Michael Marston," Heishman said. "He was being the man down [in the low post]."
The Falcons (1-0) got their next 6 points off turnovers, with Colton Manich (11 points) drilling a jumper, Sean Semones scoring off a quick pass from Leon McCray's steal, and Heishman scoring off a drive.
Heishman, who scored 9 third-period points, finished off the run with a jumper at the 1:19 mark for a 46-29 lead.
The Wildcats had 11 turnovers in the third and 17 in the second half.
"We knew they were going to come out in the second half and come up tight on us and really press us," Warren County first-season coach Vernon Mathews said. "The effort was there, but we just didn't take care of the ball and they took advantage. It was tempo. We'd make a couple good plays, but the faster we went the more problems we had."
Warren County (0-1) tried to get back in it in the first minute of the fourth quarter, opening with 6 straight points to pull within 50-41. But Central coach Roger Wilkins called a timeout and the Falcons got rolling again not long after.
Manich (5 of 7 shooting) nailed a 3-pointer out of the timeout, and the Falcons scored 13 of the game's next 15 points to run out to a 63-43 lead.
"We can just keep bringing people in," said Wilkins, who used his reserves for many minutes throughout the game. "It's two groups that we were circling in and out all the time. Maybe -- or hopefully -- we can wear people down and stay fresh. That's what we try to do. It's pretty awesome [to see]."
Wilkins was just as tickled to get solid balance from his team in its first game.
"At the end of the third [period] and start of the fourth, we started playing better offensively and moving the ball," Wilkins said. "We got a lot of people involved."
Besides Sherfey, several Falcons pointed out the big-time play of Marston in the low post. Constantly around the basket or popping outside to stretch Warren County's defense, Marston contributed 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
"That's what we've got to have -- a lot of people in the scoring column, not just one or two," said Heishman, who still made seven of his 12 shots from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers. "When I got looks in the second half, it was because Michael was [playing well] in the post. They either had to double or come out deep. It worked out great."
The Wildcats stayed with Central for the entire first half, taking a 1-point lead late in the second period on a Logan Hibbs' drive. But Seth Bauserman (11 points) got open to nail a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left for a 28-26 Central lead at the break.
Hibbs tied for game-high honors with his 21 points and Jon Roof had 11 for the Wildcats.