Warren County rides hot start to win over Hawks

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County’s boys basketball team had to wait a little longer than usual for their first home game of the season due to the extended football season and bad weather. So when the Wildcats finally got that long-awaited home game on Friday — against cross-town rival Skyline, no less — they were understandably eager for a hot start.

The Wildcats delivered just that, as they scored the game’s first 20 points and cruised to a 58-30 win over the Hawks.

“Three home games got postponed, so we knew we had to come out with a bang for our home opener. And it helps that it was Skyline. That’s a pump-up game no matter what sport,” Wildcats senior guard Jontae Rollins said. “As a team we knew that we had to come out firing. We couldn’t let the crowd get into the game, and that’s what we did.”

Warren County (4-1), which had suffered from some slow starts in several games this season, had no such trouble against the Hawks (0-6) on Friday night.

The Wildcats took a quick 6-0 lead following two buckets in the paint by 6-foot-6 forward Blake Steele and a baseline jumper, forcing Skyline coach Jacob Bates to call an early timeout just three minutes into the game.

Bates used another timeout less than two minutes later when Rollins and Kris Deal nailed 3-pointers to put Warren County up 12-0 with 3:21 left in the first period.

“Any progress that we’ve made over the last week and a half, two weeks in games, we pretty much diminished that tonight,” Bates said. “In no way, shape or form did we play the brand of basketball that we want to come out and play.”

The Wildcats kept rolling following a 3-pointer by Skyline transfer Casey Stewart, and Steele and Deal knocked down a pair of buckets in the paint to extend Warren County’s lead to 20-0. Skyline finally got on the board with 40 seconds left in the first quarter when sophomore Trayquan Diamond (team-high 10 points) hit a short jumper.

Warren County hit 8 of 13 shots in the first quarter and 22 of 50 shots in the game. The Wildcats were 9 for 19 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Skyline was just 11 for 48 from the field in the game, and hit more shots in the fourth quarter (six) than the other three periods combined. Warren County also had a 35-19 rebounding edge.

“I was pleased, because we’ve started slow a couple games… that was a key tonight, was to match their intensity but play under control,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. “I thought we did that. We managed to get the ball inside, and then when they started dumping down we were able to kick it out and make some shots from the outside.”

Warren County continued to build on its lead in the second period and took a 31-8 lead into halftime.

Rollins put on a show for the Warren County faithful in the third period, as he was a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc in the frame. He hit three in a 1:40 span to put the Wildcats up 47-11 with 3:05 left in the third quarter.

“Hitting that first three, it gives you confidence, and when you get confidence anything can happen,” said Rollins, who led Warren County with 17 points. “That’s something coach Mathews always tells me, that even if I miss, if I find my confidence I’m going to have me a game.”

Steele complemented Warren County’s perimeter attack with 14 points in the paint. The Hawks double-teamed Steele for most of the night, but he was able to utilize an effective spin move to break free for easy baskets on multiple occasions.

“We thought that they were going to more of a zone-type deal or something to have somebody fronting me and have somebody behind me … I remember a couple times I felt them and they were covering me in the same spot, so it left the baseline wide open,” said Steele, who also had nine rebounds. “I have a little bit of experience down there, so as soon as I felt it, it was just a quick move and I was two feet away from the basket.”

Stewart finished with a double-double in his first game against his former team, as the senior had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com