By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Charlottesville’s girls basketball team has not lost often this year, but the opponents that have been successful against the Black Knights have usually utilized a zone defense to get the job done. The strategy takes driving lanes away from T.C. Younger, La’Kasia Calloway, and the rest of Charlottesville’s quick guards, forcing the Knights into taking difficult shots way more often than they would like.
So naturally, No. 3-seeded Louisa trotted out a zone to start Monday’s Jefferson District Semifinal clash at Charlottesville. But after having that particular defense thrown its way for seemingly every big game this season, Charlottesville looked right at home against the 2-3 alignment.
The Black Knights used an emphatic 14-0 first quarter run to breeze right through the Louisa zone, and held off a second-half charge by the Lions to cruise to a 63-51 win over the Lions.
Charlottesville piled up 28 first-quarter points against the style of defense that had given it fits all year. The Lions were forced to completely change their strategy in the second half, but the switch could not make up for CHS’ early success against the 2-3.
“I think we’re pretty poised against [the zone] in this part of year. We get better movements, and have a lot of people flashing to the ball,” Charlottesville head coach Jim Daly said. “I thought our senior guards had a really good feel of when to get down hill and attack against the zone, or if they don’t come out, knock down open shots.”
CHS (17-6) will travel to face top-seeded Albemarle on Tuesday night with the JD crown on the line. Fresh off a one-point win over Charlottesville in the regular season finale last Tuesday, the Lions came out traded blows with No. 2 Knights early on.
The zone was working to start the contest, but as soon as the home team started hitting outside shots, it was lights out for Louisa. Instead of trading baskets, which they had done in the game’s first several minutes, what followed was possibly the best four-minute spurt on both ends of the floor for Daly’s team.
Younger answered a Louisa three with a triple of her own from the top of the key, and the Black Knights did not trail for the rest of the night. Charlottesville knocked down a trio of outside shots, as a part of that emphatic 14-0 run that caused the Lions to call two timeouts in a span of three minutes.
The Black Knights could do no wrong, as their consecutive defensive stops led to either threes or easy transition buckets during the surge. Louisa managed just one bucket in the final 4:30 of the first quarter, as Charlottesville outscored the Lions 22-2 to close out the frame.
“I thought our energy was fantastic,” Daly said of his team’s first quarter run. “We talked about when to sense to get that little spurt, cause that meltdown, make them call that timeout, can we get four more points by the end of the quarter… We needed every one of them to keep that lead.”
CHS never trailed after the first quarter blitz, but the Lions gave the home fans plenty to worry about in the third quarter.
Louisa used an 8-0 run, highlighted by a pair of Haley Walker threes to pull to within six. Charlottesville’s Camiyah Brown hit a deep jumper to temporarily stop the bleeding, but freshman sensation Olivia McGhee muscled her way to a second-chance layup on the ensuing possession.
Louisa senior Anna Filipkowski then went 1-for-2 from the line to make the score 46-40, before Carmella Jackson responded with a back-breaking triple, and the Knights would eventually lead by double digits for the remainder of the game.
“We were ready for them to come back and put up a fight- no doubt about that,” Daly said. “I thought we made some really big plays there when it got tight, and we picked it up a little bit more… Getting that extra tip or fighting real hard inside to create those transition opportunities.”
Calloway hit a bevy of big shots during the first quarter run and led Charlottesville with 15 points while Younger added 13. Carmella Jackson played a big role in the Knights maintaining their lead, and came off the bench to add 12 points.
Andrea Lefkowitz and Brown were the resident stat-stuffers for CHS. After dropping a career-best 28 points against Louisa in their last trip to CHS, Lefkowitz tallied eight points and pulled down 15 rebounds on Monday night.
Sporting a new, red-orange hairdo, Brown registered eight points, while dishing out five assists and turning the ball over just once. Despite often being the smallest player on the floor for most of the game, Brown also hauled in six boards.
The Black Knights will look to capture their first Jefferson District tournament title since 2015 on Tuesday and gain a measure of revenge in the process. One third of Charlottesville’s losses have come at the hands of Albemarle this year, including a 50-29 blowout in the finals of the 2019-20 Holiday Tournament Championship Game.
“We’re excited. It’s a chance to play for a district title — that’s what you practice hard every day for, and we’re excited for a chance to see them again,” Daly said.