Wildcats fall short at home against Colonels

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s boys basketball team answered a fourth-quarter run by visiting James Wood Friday night, but the Wildcats couldn’t complete the comeback.

The Wildcats fell to the Colonels 57-51 in non-conference action, dropping their second straight game and suffering their second loss to James Wood on the young season.

James Wood (3-2) carried a 40-35 lead into the final period and extended that advantage to 48-36 with 5:24 to play with an 8-1 run before the Wildcats (2-3) finally ended the spurt when junior Brendan McMackin was awarded 2 points on a goaltending violation with 4:24 left.

The Colonels again pushed the lead back to 12 points before Warren County junior guard Cameron Ford began heating up. He hit a runner in the paint before knocking down a pair of deep 3-pointers to pull the Wildcats within 52-48 with 1:55 remaining.

“A lot of people told me I had to step it up, so I mean I had to gain my confidence back,” said Ford, who scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth period, including the Wildcats’ final 13 points. “My confidence wasn’t really there in the middle of the game but I think when I started believing that my shot would fall I think it sunk in.”

Ford’s outburst forced James Wood coach Tim Wygant to call a timeout, and Colonels senior forward Randolph Jackson came right out of the timeout and bullied his way into the paint before connecting on a contested shot through contact to put his team up 6 points with 1:45 left.

“I actually missed it because I was looking at the bench when it happened, but he’s been working really, really hard finishing at the rim, higher up on the backboard and he’s been a pretty consistent player for us all year,” Wygant said of Jackson, who scored 7 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth period while pulling down six rebounds. “That was kind of what put us over the top, that basket.”

Warren County had its chances to cut into the deficit at the free throw line but missed all four of its foul shots over the final 90 seconds. Jackson put the game out of reach with three free throws late before Ford hit his third trey of the frame in the final seconds to set the final score.

The Wildcats were able to hang with James Wood for the entire night just over a week after losing to the Colonels by 21 points. Warren County never trailed by more than 7 points until the fourth period.

“I think we slowed down a little bit because the first game we were rushing everything just trying to get points, trying to move along, get buckets quick,” Ford said. “But this game we kind of settled, waited for our shots to come. Played a little better defense too at the end.”

Warren County, which had two starters get into foul trouble in the first half, got off to a hot start, as a pair of Ford 3-pointers and buckets by R.J. Keeney and McMackin helped the Wildcats to an early 10-6 lead in the first period. The Wildcats led 13-7 after a trey by Collin Garnett with 3:10 left in the quarter before James Wood closed the frame on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 15-all.

The two teams traded the lead early in the second period before the Colonels pushed its advantage to 7 points. James Wood led 28-21 late in the period but Jakob Cornwell hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the baseline off a full-court inbound pass to pull Warren County within 28-23 going into halftime.

James Wood shot 47.6 percent (20 for 42) from the floor in the win and out-rebounded the Wildcats 36-28. Andrew Hinebaugh had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Colonels, while Chandler Brooks had 10 rebounds to go along with 8 points.

McMackin had 7 points and seven rebounds for Warren County, while Keeney had 4 points and six rebounds. Garnett saw extensive action in the first half after Wildcats starting point guard Clyde Ritchie got in early foul trouble and finished with 9 points.

The Wildcats, which hit just 4 of 10 free throws in the loss, shot 35.1 percent (20 for 57) from the floor.

“I thought defensively we played a lot better,” Wygant said. “We were able to close out on shooters and hedge out under screens. They have a couple really experienced, really good guards and they can shoot well. (Ford) got hot, he got really hot. He made a lot of shots but we were able to neutralize, for the most part, the rest of them.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com