By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- After an early season loss to Luray, Warren County hoped to get revenge when they hosted the Bulldogs on Friday night in boys' basketball action.
The Wildcats used their defense to set the wheels in motion and with their offense having early success from the field, Warren established a quick lead and never looked back, rolling to a 74-59 victory.
Jontae Rollins opened the scoring for Warren County with a fast break layup following a turnover and then found Blake Steele for a basket to take an early four point lead. After the Bulldogs tied the game with free throw shots, the Wildcats went on a 13-2 run behind the leadership of senior Matt Nicholson.
Nicholson connected on back to back 3-point shots to begin the stretch. Following another basket by Rollins, Nicholson recorded a steal and went the length of the court for a basket. Shivam Mehta then hit a shot from behind the arc to cap the run and give the Wildcats an 18-6 lead.
"Our defense really stepped up tonight," Nicholson said. "The press is our defense and I think it gives teams a lot of trouble and lets us use our speed to score in transition."
Luray fought back with five consecutive points to cut the margin before Warren County went on another run to end the first period. Four different Wildcats players scored during a 10 point stretch with Nicholson and Eric Baker finishing with back to back 3-point shots to take a 17-point advantage at the end of one.
"I think in the first quarter and the first half for that matter, we finally saw what we are capable of doing in the system we are playing now," Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. "I think that our defense is what allowed us to get going the way we did by creating turnovers and getting in our offense."
The Bulldogs were not nearly as silent the rest of the night but couldn't manage to find a way to dig out of the hole they fell in early on. Luray held the lead in scoring for the final three quarters but the first period was too much to overcome as they couldn't manage to pull within single digits the remainder of the night.
"We had some times there where shots weren't going down but one thing I told our team is that our defense has to be constant," Mathews said. "The shooting comes and goes but if we are consistent with our defensive pressure the rest will come. That showed tonight because even when our shots weren't falling we did a good job of not letting them get back into the game."
Braden Cook led the Bulldogs with 21 points on the evening while Nicholson had a game-high 26 points. Rollins contributed 13 for the Wildcats but the game MVP on the night was Steele who recorded 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks to lead the way.
"The first game against them was rough," Steele said. "We were in a new system and since then every game we have gotten better. I wasn't real happy about that loss and we wanted to get payback. I think I did a good job in the low box but everything revolves around the entire team. If not for the other 12 guys on the team, I couldn't be in position to do the things I was able to do tonight."