Young, inexperienced Wildcats show improvement in defeat

Hunter Wines

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County boys basketball coach John Kelly knows it will take time for his young squad to start winning games.

That’s why he wasn’t too disappointed with the Wildcats’ 63-58 non-district overtime loss to Clarke County on Tuesday.

“Most of the time we had juniors out there except for Hunter (Wines) and R.J. (Keeney),” Kelly said. “And they’re playing better and better each game. We want to be successful, but a lot of it is just getting the building blocks in place. And each game that we’ve played we’ve gotten better and better.”

Kelly said he saw plenty of improvements in his team against Clarke County.

The Wildcats fell behind in the first half, trailing by as many as 11 points.

R.J. Keeney

“(Clarke County’s William Holsinger) for them runs everything,” Kelly said. “He is their energy person. And we had to match what he was doing on the court with our five. We were able to do that and bring it back in.”

The Wildcats used their defensive pressure to help cut the lead to 36-35 with 2:59 left in the third period.

From there the game went back and forth.

“I feel like it was good for the team to have that close game,” Wines said. “We were down 10 and we fought back and stayed in the game with them the whole time. I’m happy about that.”

The Wildcats (1-8) took the lead for the first time since early in the first period, on a basket by Aidan deVenoge with 6:23 left in regulation.

Wines gave the Wildcats their final lead of the game, 52-50, on a 3-pointer by Wines with 3:29 left in regulation.

Wines had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.

“I haven’t been scoring as much as I want to, but I started making a couple more shots (Tuesday night),” Wines said. “And we were just moving the ball around as a team leading to open shots.”

The Eagles (3-8) took a 2-point lead twice in the last two minutes, but each time Keeney responded with a basket of his own to tie the game.

Keeney finished the game with 8 points and nine rebounds in his first game of the season. Kelly said that Keeney was suspended for the first seven games of the season due to suspension.

“Having him back, getting him more and more in shape is big for us,” Kelly said. “He plays 4 inches taller than what he is by his jumping ability. And he rebounds for us.”

The Eagles scored the first 4 points of overtime on a basket each by Dakota McCaw and Volkan Ergen.

Wines scored with 1:22 left to cut the lead to 60-58, but Warren County missed its final five shots.

The Wildcats, which have nine juniors and one sophomore on the squad, had 11 different players score.

Kelly said that most of the team played on the junior varsity last season and it’s just taking some time for them to get used to the varsity level.

Kelly said that one of the things he wants his young team to learn is to be able to finish games and make plays down the stretch. He said he feels the growing pains the team is going through now will pay off down the road.

“When it’s a tie ball game with four minutes to go, what do you do?” Kelly said. “Who has the more mature offense or defense? Who makes the mistakes? Who handles the ball better? That’s what we want to see. Our JV team — all freshman — they’re a talented group. It’s trying to get all of them into a nucleus.”