Handley boys handle Kettle Run 76-65
Posted: January 12, 2013
Special to The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — After a pair of impressive victories to open up the Northwestern District season that vaulted them into a first-place tie, the Handley boys’ basketball team stepped away from district play Friday night to take on Kettle Run, the first-place team from the Evergreen District in what appeared to be a good matchup on paper.
Coming off those two district wins (over Millbrook and Skyline) and with a huge game for first place at Sherando coming on Tuesday night, the Judges’ focus Friday night might not have always been where it needed to be, but in the end Handley overcame a slow start and a lackluster finish to post a 76-65 non-district win over the Cougars at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium.
“We have to all buy into what’s working for us and I don’t think we have everybody doing that,” said Handley coach Tommy Dixon. “I’ve always said that once we establish the inside game it becomes easier on the perimeter. That’s one of our biggest plans. We’re not getting anything on the perimeter, we’re just not in a good flow.”
After scoring the first two points of the game, Handley (11-2) found itself down thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Kettle Run’s Travis Williams. Williams’ first trey gave the Cougars a 5-2 lead and later in the quarter he gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game when he hit another 3-pointer to make it 11-7 with 3:33 left in the first.
The remainder of the quarter, and pretty much the half, was all Judges.
On the next trip down the floor junior Jason Morgan got the Judges on track by drilling a long 3-pointer to make it 11-10 and launch an 8-0 run.
Will Dearing’s layup gave the Judges the lead back at 12-11 and Morgan followed with an old-fashioned three-point play. His free throw made it 15-11 and the Judges held onto a 15-13 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
Kettle Run (5-7) scored the first four points of the second quarter and looked as if it was going to make a move to add more to the lead, but then the Judges picked up the intensity on both ends of the floor.
Handley’s big men down low, junior Cameron Jackson and senior Darion Robinson, took over on the offensive boards and provided a much-needed spark.
Jackson’s offensive rebound and putback tied the game at 17-17 and the next time down the floor Robinson grabbed an offensive board and put the Judges back ahead to stay at 19-17.
That’s about the time the defense kicked in, causing numerous turnovers that led to easy fast-break layups. Back-to-back steals and layups, first by Tre Brown and then by Morgan, gave the Judges a 23-17 advantage.
The defense and rebounding sparked a 14-2 Handley run, giving the Judges a 10-point lead (29-19) with 2:21 left in the half.
Another Kettle Run 3-pointer, this time from Lucas Costa, cut the lead to seven, but four straight free throws, two by Jake Rudolph and two more by Morgan with just seconds left in the half, gave Handley a comfortable 33-22 lead at the break.
The third quarter was all the Judges as they were threatening to run the Cougars right out of the gym. Before Kettle Run had a chance to settle in for the second half the Judges had increased the lead to 15 and then 19 by the time the clock read 5:46 with most of the latest damage coming from Jackson.
Handley started the third on an 11-3 run and pushed the lead to 44-25. Six of those points came from Jackson inside the paint where Kettle Run had no answers to stop him.
Just under a minute later Jackson brought the crowd to their feet when he collected a steal near midcourt and broke free for an uncontested dunk and a 20-point cushion (48-28) with 4:58 left in the period.
Over the next five minutes the Judges kept their foot on the gas and continued to add to the lead, finishing the period on another 14-8 run that made the advantage 26 (62-36) heading into the last quarter.
With everything but the final score decided, and a big game on the horizon Tuesday night, the Judges watched their 26-point lead start to disappear.
In the final eight minutes of play Kettle Run showed the offense it’s capable of, knocking down five 3-pointers and outscoring the Judges 29-14 to crawl back into the contest. The Cougars got as close as 10 points when Williams hit a short jumper with 1:24 left to play.
On the next trip down the floor Robinson hit a huge basket for Handley and he followed that up with a free throw to increase the lead to 13 with just over a minute to play. Handley was able to milk the clock from there and escape with the 11-point victory.
“Blowing a big lead like that is a concern, they just weren’t focused,” Dixon said. “I think it’s just a lack of concentration and focus. That’s the time you want to play and keep that lead.
“(Tuesday) is for first place. [Sherando is] playing well, they’re doing a good job in every phase of the game. It should be a good game.”
Handley had four players in double figures led by Morgan’s 20 points off the bench. Jackson and Robinson each had 13 and Rudolph added 11 in his first game back from an injury. Kettle Run was led by Rashawn Latimer’s game-high 23 points. Costa added 14 and Williams 12.
“We got off to a slow start but our second team came in and gave us some energy off the bench,” Morgan said. “We have a lot of people that can score and to have four guys in double figures makes it better for the team. Everybody was hustling after the ball and trying to make a play.
“We want to win every game so we can get a better seed for the playoffs and play as many games at home as we can.”