Monticello coach Josh McElheny doesn’t lack for things to say during a game. Few basketball coaches do.
But a pair of specific talks Thursday night did the trick for the Mustangs as Monticello secured a second place finish in the Jefferson District regular season race with a 46-38 victory over Western Albemarle.
First McElheny, for lack of a more exact term, got after his charges between the first and second quarter when the Warriors jumped out to a 13-6 lead.
“I kind of yelled a little bit there in between quarters and it took a little bit to wake them up,” McElheny said. “This is the biggest game that most of these girls have ever played in, a battle for second place. There were just some nerves there at the beginning.”
Monticello put together a 12-0 run to close out the second quarter, holding Western to just three points in the frame. With the Mustangs starting to take control as the Warriors’ shooting woes, a season long hurdle, settled in, McElheny then went out of his way to get his junior point guard, Bridget Holleran, involved in the game after she struggled to a scoreless first half.
“He just told me that I needed to bounce back and (the team) needs me and that any other year I would’ve folded,” Holleran said.
Holleran responded, hitting the opening shot of the second half. She finished with nine points, including a solid 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
“She did a very good job,” McElheny said. “We had a good talk. When she scored the first bucket you could see that spark come back to her eyes and she was fantastic from there.”
Molly Shepherd provided Monticello’s most consistent scoring punch with 13 points while Emily Larabee finished with nine points. Meghan Comer rounded out the balanced offensive effort with eight points of her own.
Monticello held a sizeable advantage in free throw attempts despite the game’s physicality on both ends of the floor. The Mustangs made 20 of 32 attempts while Western went just 5 for 11. The Warriors were without the services of recently injured Mady Baker, a defensive standout and one of Western’s key leaders. The Warriors continued to struggle to score as they have in nearly every game this season, and with Baker out of the lineup, Monticello was able to focus more on closing out on Sydney Fewell, the Warriors’ guard who’s been red-hot of late.
“Adversity is something we’ve faced all season you have to figure out a way to battle through it,” said Western coach Kris Wright. “I thought we did that, we were really invested and we played hard. We just couldn’t make enough shots to make the game interesting.”
Fewell still managed to finish with 10 points. Kathryn Crickenberger led the Warriors with 11 on the night and Bridget Shaffrey checked in with eight points.
Western wraps up Jefferson District play Tuesday against Powhatan on the road while the Mustangs take on Charlottesville at home the same day.