By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Twenty-four hours after blowing out Madison County, Western Albemarle was fighting off a pesky Fluvanna County squad in the exact same gym.
Up just two points with less than one minute remaining, Western was hanging on by a thread and needed to hit some clutch free throws in order to escape with the win on senior night.
Thankfully for Western, Fluvanna County kept putting four-year starter Chris McGahren on the line when the Warriors had to have them. As he has done throughout his many years in a Western uniform, McGahren calmly did what he had to do to help lift his team to a win.
The battle-tested senior went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final minute and tallied 11 of his game-high 23 points to lift Western to a 57-51 win over Fluvanna County.
After swishing a pair of free throws to put his team ahead by four, it was another senior, Jed Strickland, who helped slam the door on the Flucos on the other end of the court. Strickland delivered a huge block on a potential three-point attempt, giving the ball back to the Warriors, which led to another two points from McGahren.
“[McGahren] saved us — he and Jed played well… It was a strange game for us,” Maynard said following the triumph.
Prior to Tuesday’s seesaw battle, McGahren and Strickland joined fellow upperclassmen Teo Rampini and Mitch Larkin on the court with their families for a nice ovation on senior night.
Larkin earned a rare start for the special occasion and registered two out of Western’s first three field goals of the contest. McGahren, Strickland, and Rampini have been cornerstones of the program for the past several years.
“Chris, Jed, and Teo have been big parts of state tournament teams the last few years,” Maynard said. “Boy, they’ve done some heroic things that last few years they’ve been here. I’ll miss them terribly when they’re gone, but we have some games left to play this year, so I’m going to enjoy them while they’re here.”
Western Albemarle (15-5) took the lead for good with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, but could never truly breathe a sigh of relief until the final buzzer sounded.
A triple by Chris McGahren lifted the Warriors to a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Flucos refused to go down without a fight.
Sophomore Keshawn Fisher answered McGahren’s trey with a triple of his own to jumpstart an 11-2 Fluvanna run over the next several minutes.
Trailing by six with 1:33 remaining, AJ Gregory, who proved to be a thorn in Western’s side all night, knocked down a huge three-pointer to pull the visitors to within one possession for the first time since early in the second quarter.
Following a put-back by Thomas Magnum on the opposite end, Fisher again nailed a three to trim the deficit to just two points.
The three-point line was kind to Fluvanna all night. As a team, the Flucos buried six clutch shots from beyond the arc, which helped keep the pressure on a Western Albemarle club that simply could not pull away.
Gregory tailed a team-high 17 points, while Drew Pace added ninie, and Fisher chipped in eight.
Western led by 13 points late in the second quarter, but senior DaShon Carter hit a three just before the halftime buzzer, which set the tone for the rest of the contest.
“We talked coming into the game about keeping our composure. We knew that [Western] was going to make a couple of runs and the key was to not allow a big run,” Fluvanna head coach Jason Davis said. “We made some big shots and we put our butts down on defense. I told our guys that they scored 37 points in the first half, but only five, I think, in the third quarter… I really thought my kids battled their hearts out tonight and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Davis’ counterpart agreed with that assessment.
“I have to give a lot credit to Fluvanna, they played really hard,” Maynard said. “They came here to win and we were sort of taken aback by that and never really adjusted, so I’ve got to give them credit for that.”
Western Albemarle will get some rest after playing three games in five days. The Warriors will travel to Monticello on Friday, while Fluvanna will host Orange County on Friday.