By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- With the season on the line, Blake Steele didn't want it to end. The Warren County junior and his teammates made sure the Wildcats have at least one more game.
Steele scored all but two of his team's fourth quarter points to give Warren County a 56-47 Evergreen District boys basketball victory on Saturday. With the win the Wildcats will be the No. 4 seed in this week's district tournament and play at top-seeded Kettle Run on Wednesday.
"The seniors -- as well as me and, I'm sure, the rest of the team -- we don't want this to end," Steele said. "For some of us this is our life. I don't know what some of us would do without it.
"To go out and communicate with [my teammates] and get a big win to go to districts was nice."
The game was the regular season finale for both teams, and they finished tied for fourth place. However, Warren County had the tiebreaker over the Tigers. The Evergreen District does not have a play-in game for their tournament.
It was a game of runs, although the Wildcats trailed only once the entire game, which was late in the first quarter.
Warren County (7-14, 1-7 Evergreen) used a 19-7 run to build a 33-20 lead with 1;20 left in the first half. Steele had 11 points during the run.
The Tigers (2-18, 1-7 Evergreen) came right back, finishing the first half by scoring the last seven points to cut the deficit to six.
Brentsville continued the 15-4 in the third quarter, and cut the lead to 35-33 with 3:52 left in the frame.
The Wildcats stormed back with a 15-2 spurt to take control of the game again and take a 52-37 lead with 5:19 remaining.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Steele said. "We had our times where we were down on a run, and then you gotta just keep fighting back as a team to get back on top and win."
Brentsville had one last run in them, as the Tigers scored 10 straight points to cut the lead to 52-47 with 2:57 left.
Steele, who finished with 21 points, made a key play on the defensive end to help seal the win. He blocked a shot on a drive to the basket by Brentsville's Tyler Cherry with 1:04 remaining.
"I had four fouls but down low sometimes you got to take one for the team," Steele said. "So, it was either let them get an easy layup, and they would only be down by three, or get the foul and be out. I have complete confidence in my team finishing out the game. I figured why not.
"If I get it clean then it is our ball, and we're going back down and taking more time off the clock, so they don't have the opportunity to score."
Steele then hit four free throws in the last 24 seconds to finish it off.
Brentsville was led by Cherry with 14 points, while Alec Pfleckl added 11.
Steele also had seven rebounds and three blocks, and Matt Nicholson had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Joey Catalani also scored seven points, including the first five of the game for Warren County.
Warren County coach Vernon Mathews said he was pleased with how the team played.
"Keys to the game today, I thought, was we had to win the battle of the boards and play good defense," Mathews said. "We did both of those.
"I was happy for the seniors -- on senior night. If we lose, our season's done."
Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org