By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's boys basketball team hasn't relied on much full-court defensive pressure lately, but the Wildcats showed on Friday against visiting Central just how effective they can be in when they turn to it.
The Wildcats utilized a 1-3-1 full-court zone in the second half, and the Falcons had no answer as Warren County ballooned a seven-point halftime lead into a 56-36 rout against its Bull Run District/Conference 28 rival.
"It was definitely a solid win," Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. "We didn't shoot the ball well in the first half, and I don't think overall we really shot the ball that great. But we hung in there and got the lead, and in the third quarter there we really cranked up the defensive intensity, got some turnovers, got some easy baskets and that really got us going."
Warren County (10-1, 6-0 Bull Run) trailed 11-7 after a chilly start from the field, but it was the Falcons (6-7, 4-4) who went ice cold from then on.
Central hit just one field goal in the second period, and the Wildcats took advantage by taking a 20-13 lead into halftime. From there, it was all Warren County.
The Wildcats opened the second half in its full court press, and Warren County blew the game open with a 17-0 run to start the third quarter. Central turned the ball over eight times in the frame (20 total times in the game) and didn't score a point until Brady Baker hit a baseline jumper with 2:45 left in the period.
Warren County outscored the Falcons 25-7 in the third period.
"We just didn't handle the pressure very well," Falcons coach Brandon Shields said. "We kind of let them put us in bad spots. We were kind of trying to throw over top of it and through it, and that's just not going to work if they're shooting the gaps like that. It kind of snowballed on us there for a while and we just didn't have an answer for it."
The Falcons also didn't seem to have an answer for Warren County big men Blake Steele and Casey Stewart. The senior duo combined for 15 of the Wildcats' 25 points in the frame as Warren County hit 11 of 17 shots in the period.
Steele finished with a game-high 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, while Stewart finished with 18 points and four steals for the Wildcats. All of Steele's points came either in the paint or at the free-throw line, and Warren County was able to seemingly score at will inside for most of the night.
"As poorly as we shot the ball, I think we got the ball in the paint and really did some good things."
The Wildcats carried a 45-20 lead into the final quarter, and Mathews elected to sit his starters for most of the fourth period.
Warren County shot 37.9 percent (22 of 58) from the field in the game, while Central was just 13 for 48 (27.1 percent) from the floor.
"The open looks we got just didn't happen," Shields said. "We broke [the press] a couple times, dropped it off for layups and we'd bobble it or miss. We had a couple opportunities where we could have maybe forced them to come off it a little bit, but we just didn't capitalize."
Senior Travis Cooper led Central with 13 points, while Austin Fadely finished with seven for the Falcons.