Stewart propels Warren
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL –Casey Stewart felt right at home.
The Warren County senior guard spent his last three seasons at Skyline before transferring to the Wildcats this year. Stewart made the most of his return to Skyline on Saturday helping the Wildcats knock off his former team, 52-22, in boys basketball action.
“I was really nervous coming back here,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know how the crowd was going to react to me. It’s always a big deal when you leave a school to play for somebody else and you make an appearance to play against them.”
Stewart had a game-high 16 points, including 12 in the first half. He said it definitely helped being familiar with the gym.
“I’ve been in this gym for three years now,” Stewart said. “I’m used to the rims. I know my spots on the floor where I’m going to shoot from.”
He said it was also nice catching up with his old teammates, but he tried to stay focused on the game during play.
“Once we go on the court it’s just me and my teammates,” Stewart said. “[Skyline players] are nothing else to me but the enemy. After the game they’re back to being my friends.”
The Hawks (1-8) came out trying to slow the game down with lots of passing and long possessions, but it didn’t work out for them.
Skyline committed six first-period turnovers, including five straight at one point, and the Wildcats scored the first 11 points of the game.
“We tried to slow down the game, and it was kind of unfortunate because the pressure got to us,” Skyline coach Jacob Bates said. “The ghost pressure affected us more than it affected them. We committed too many unforced turnovers in the first quarter to stick with the game plan.”
The Wildcats (5-1, 2-0 Bull Run) made five of their first eight shots, using a strong inside-outside game.
Warren County senior center Blake Steele scored four points during the run, and guards Stewart and Kris Deal scored the remaining seven in the first period.
“There’s not a lot of people out there that can stop Blake [Steele] in the post,” Stewart said. “So, once they key on stopping him, they double down, they try and help, and then 3-ball is there.”
The Wildcats continued to stretch their lead in the second period and eventually built a 27-7 halftime edge.
It was the Wildcats first game since beating Skyline on Dec. 20, 58-30.
“It’s a big game for us,” Warren County coach Vernon Mathews said. “Nice to see us execute after the layoff.”
Jerrius Baltimore led the Hawks with five points.The Hawks have a very young and inexperienced squad. Skyline has a very tough schedule ahead, which includes Handley led by D-I commit Cameron Jackson and Sherando with D-1 recruit Grant Golden.
“I’m not sure in this area you’re ever going to have a schedule where you’re going to face this many division 1 basketball players,” Bates said. “And you can look at it like it’s an unfortunate circumstance, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to look at like it’s an opportunity to play against some really good basketball players and some good teams.
“And that’s going to make us become better players and in a season like this that’s what this season is about anyway. It’s about growth and maturity, and to actually play against those teams and those players that are to come in the next few weeks — we’re excited about it.”
Steele finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assist and two blocks for the Wildcats.
Warren County is scheduled to play eight games over a 13 day stretch. Stewart said the players are ready for it and that the win over Skyline was just what they needed.
“That’s going to be tough,” Stewart said of the schedule. “This was a good game to get back into our flow, get used to things again before we head into the eight-game stretch.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd