Wildcat boys see good, bad in basketball season opener

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School’s boys basketball team drew a tough matchup at home on Tuesday night against Class 4 Northwestern District foe Millbrook, and as is the case in most season openers, Wildcats head coach John Kelly saw some good and some bad in the 78-48 loss.

Among the bad, Millbrook’s fast-paced style overpowered the Wildcats, who failed to keep the game competitive after trailing 18-11 at the end of the first period. Warren County shot just 35 percent from the floor while the Pioneers connected on nearly 50 percent of their shots, and the Wildcats turned the ball over 21 times.

“We told the players they would run, be super athletic, and they were,” said Kelly, who spent 10 years coaching Warren County’s varsity girls basketball team before taking over the boys this season. “I saw good things in spurts, I saw things we have to work on. Boxing out was a huge one. I think most of their points came off put-backs, it looked like, in the second half. And just our shot selection. We got into their style of play, we rushed the ball an awful lot and we don’t do that style.”

Millbrook (1-0) outscored the Wildcats (0-1) 47-21 in the second and third periods to blow open the contest, a lopsided span that included a 13-0 Pioneer run late in the second quarter that sent Warren County into halftime trailing 44-21.

Five Pioneers scored at least 10 points in the win – Ben Curtin (17), Noah Thomas (11), Jordan Jackson (11), Jordan Funk (10) and Haden Madagan (10 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) – and Millbrook scored 46 points in the paint, 24 points in transition and finished with 17 second-chance points.

“They’re really good at it, about getting back, that kind of stuff,” Kelly said of Millbrook. “We’re not in basketball shape yet. We had nine players come back from football, so we’re still in football shape a little bit. And I wanted to get into a football style of a game but they were so quick they just outran us.”

It wasn’t all bad for the Wildcats, however. Warren County actually outrebounded the Pioneers 41-39, and sophomore forward Jonathan McCarty shined in his varsity debut, posting a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Wildcats’ only double-digit scorer.

Kelly said McCarty needs to be that type of post presence for the Wildcats this winter.

“He didn’t play last year, and so he’s just now coming back from having a year and a half off, so to see him out there moving around with a team like Millbrook was pretty good to see for us,” said Kelly, who got the chance to rotate in a lot of players on Tuesday night to give them some valuable experience.

“We played a lot of juniors tonight and they played JV last year so they need to see the speed of a really good varsity team. We had to see that speed, and that’s good for us moving forward. You play teams early in the season, let’s play the best teams out there.”

Robert Cameron, a junior, had eight points and six rebounds for Warren County, while point guard Colby Garnett and fellow senior Jonathan Brown added six points apiece. Six other Wildcats scored at least two points in the loss.

“We have a nice, young team, it’s just learning how to play,” said Kelly, whose team hosts Woodgrove at 7:30 p.m. today. “I told them after the game, I think the first couple of games we’re playing ourselves and learning to play how we wanna play, learning a whole new system that I run compared to last year’s coach. It’s gonna take time.”