With a pair of runs to Group 3A tournament there aren’t a lot of bucket list items for the four returning seniors at Western Albemarle, at least on the local level. But beating Charlottesville on its own court happens to be one of them. Facing a 10-point deficit in the middle of the second with just one field goal during the first 10 minutes of play, the Warriors looked headed down a familiar path.
However, by putting the Black Knights in real problematic foul trouble in the first half, Western got itself back into the game. Then when the Warriors took over early in the second half, the visitors were able to get out in front and then hold on after a late Charlottesville surge to pick up that elusive road win with a 53-46 final.
“We really struggled in the first quarter because they just came up with a super high intensity, it’s loud in here and for some of our guys, this is the first time going through with that,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “I thought we really settled down in the second and third and actually played pretty well. If we could have made a few more free throws it might have been more comfortable, but a win here, you’ll take it.”
With Charlottesville thriving behind its depth and speed, things were looking up for the home crowd after a 7-3 start in the first quarter that snowballed into a 16-6 advantage lead early in the second. But with Teo Mantini, Tommy Mangrum and Jed Strickland establishing a presence in the paint, the Warriors whittled away at the margin. Turnovers created by Charlie Weyher by charges taken and steals helped turn things Western’s way while Charlottesville’s two largest threats, Sam Neale and Isaiah Washington ran into foul trouble and had to sit out.
“The fouls killed us, that’s the bottom line,” said Charlottesville coach Mitch Minor. “We have to find a way to get out of foul trouble. We can’t allow Western to go to the free throw line like that either. And Sam and Isaiah sat out almost entire half because of that.”
At the break, the Warriors had the Black Knights lead within sight at 23-21. In the first two minutes of the second half Western went up 27-25 and that would be as close as Charlottesville would get, despite a great battle in the fourth. Mangrum, Mantini and Garrett Payne continued to pick up points in the pain in the third to make it a 36-25 advantage for the Warriors.
Charlottesville brought back in Neale and Washington which helped to get things to 45-42 midway through the fourth. A McGarhen 3-point splash with 2:22 to play made it 48-42 but Neale responded with a shot from beyond the ar to make it 49-46 on the other end.
“I mean I was happy with our hustle and we did some smart things to get back into it,” Minor said. “I’m happy with our intensity and hustle, but we have to, have to do a better job of rebounding. There two things we learned tonight. We have to keep teams off the free throw line and we have to rebound better.”
Western was able to finish things up with free throws in the fourth, despite a night where it shot an uncharacteristic 50% from the line. McGahren’s 3-for-4 showing in the fourth at the charity stripe but a bow on the 53-46 win.
“When we get down we know we have what it takes to get back in game because of how we prepare everyday,” McGahren said. “That was out mentality, just to get back to who we are and let our system do it’s work.”
On the night, McGahren and Rampini both finished with 13 points for the Warriors. Rampini also had five steal and 13 rebounds, nine of them on the offensive end. Wyher had three charges drawn with three steals. Mangrum had 10 points and 14 rebounds, again, with nine of them on the offensive end.
“Rampini and Mangrum were just huge on the glass and they really helped us out,” Maynard said. “Weyher’s charges were huge and he’s just an energy guy. He plays great defense and this was a great experience game for him being a younger player.”
For the Black Knights, Neale had 13 points despite spending much of the game sidelined. Washington had six points and faced the same situation. Nicolas Motley had 11 points.
Charlottesville hosts Fluvanna County on Tuesday. Western hosts Albemarle on Friday.