By Brian Eller
FRONT ROYAL -- Vernon Mathews didn't want to believe what he had just seen.
Time and time again, 3-point attempts, mid-range jumpers, even open lay-ups were hoisted up, only to be rejected by an unforgiving rim. To say his team had just finished a cold shooting night would be putting it politely. At times it was baffling to see another Wildcats shot spin out of the hoop, yet after four quarters, Warren County had managed just six field goals on 39 shots, including a scoreless third quarter. Meanwhile, their opponent, Clarke County, had little trouble finding the basket, and rolled to a 61-33 win over the Wildcats on Monday night.
"We took advantage when we were able to create turnovers and of course they're a much better shooting team than what we saw tonight," Clarke County coach Brent Emmart said. "It was their first game and they seemed to get tired in the second half, and we did a good job of working in transition, but they're a better team than what they had tonight."
Heading into Monday's contest, the game plan for Clarke County was to find the mismatch and exploit it. And it didn't take long for the Eagles to discover where the advantage was on the court. Using big men Stephan Bodkin and Grant Shaw, Clarke County jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter, as Bodkin poured in four of his game-high 13 points, while Shaw connected on three of his four shots in the opening quarter to give the Eagles an eight-point cushion after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Clarke County used more of the same with Bodkin, feeding him in the post as the senior scored seven more points. On defense, the Eagles forced 11 first-half turnovers, and often turned them into points of their own, as they built a 13-point lead heading into halftime.
"Our offense kind of runs through our defense a lot of times," Bodkin said. "We did a good job of creating turnovers and then making quick decisions with the ball to find the basket, and that helped us put points on the scoreboard."
As the second half got under way, Warren County could've used some of that help on its own end. During the eight-minute period, the Wildcats went 0-for-11 from the field, including 0-for-4 from behind the arc. Seven turnovers compounded the damage, as Clarke County saw eight different players score, putting up 17 in the quarter to take a commanding 30-point lead.
"I think we were something like 6-of-38 from the field," Mathews said. "I'm not sure exactly, but we just couldn't make a basket any way we tried. I told the guys at halftime we needed to come out in the first four minutes and execute, but we weren't making our shots and when you turn the ball over, too, it gets bad in a hurry."
With the game in hand in the fourth quarter, Clarke County brought in its backups to gain some experience, while the Wildcats finally connected on a field goal with 6:49 left in the quarter, a lay-up from Logan Hibbs. Dakota Pratscher led Warren County with nine points, while Matt Nicholson added six of his own and Ryan Tierney and Hibbs had five each. Matt Moyer, Ethan Emmart and Shaw all finished in double figures for the Eagles.
"We've got a tough nondistrict schedule to start things out," Emmart said. "It's been tough, but we've been up to the challenge so far."