Western was the odd man out last year after losing to Monticello in a tie breaker to qualify for the Region II tournament, something that left a sour taste in the Warriors’ mouths.
Western Albemarle took the court this year with a new look and established itself quickly at the front of the Jefferson District field. After a crazy two months where it seemed the Warriors, Monticello and Fluvanna County might walk away with the regular season championship and the Region II bid that goes along with it, the potential on Wednesday night was that there could be a four-way tie atop of the standings, forcing the JD tournament to establish both berths for the Region II tournament. That wasn’t to pass.
Thanks to an unreal first half on the road at Charlottesville the Warriors made things a little more simple with a 58-31 win to force at worst, a playoff for the regular season crown. Just an hour after the win, Monticello took down Fluvanna County and as such, Western could breathe easy as the JD champs, assured of a Region II game on its own court. With a convincing win over the Black Knights, the Warriors are headed into the Jefferson District tournament knowing their place, and they go into it after doing the things they’ve always done in years past, playing fundamental defense and hitting the open looks, not to mention almost all their free throws.
“I thought we were awesome on defense all night long, locking them down and I don’t know that we could have played better defensively,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “They’re a great offensive team so I’m proud of that.”
A better start would have been tough to come by against Charlottesville. The Warriors opened the game on a 9-2 run as it gave nothing inside to the Black Knights and controlled the tempo on the other side of the court. That continued into the second where Western went with balance between Chase Stokes, Sam Chisholm, Jake Maynard and the 3-point shooting of Eli Sumpter to open up a 20-point lead while holding Charlottesville to just five points with 90 seconds to go until the break.
“It was good to see Eli get hot because he’s been in a mini slump and he started shooting better last night and then gave us a big lift tonight,” Maynard said. “But we are so balanced that we don’t have to count on one person so I thought that showed today.”
It simply wasn’t Charlottesville’s night, but the defending JD tourney champs found a way to make the game interesting quickly by trimming the lead to 11 after back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Darius Watson and Jamar Pierre Lewis.
“We made a couple of bad turnovers and then made a couple of bad routes off of screens for Darius, but we were able to correct that,” Maynard said. “We said we wouldn’t take that route after that.”
Up 13 at the break, Western wouldn’t let Charlottesville get within any sort of striking distance. The Warriors presence in the paint was simply too much, both on the defensive glass and then on the other end in the paint. The Warriors went up 19 before the fourth, and after that, put on a free throw clinic to close out the game comfortably.
“We just tried to keep our heads in it (with the big lead) and not get too far ahead,” Stokes said. “We tried to take it play-by-play, getting defensive stops and getting good rotation on offense.”
Five Western players had six points or better. Stokes led the way with 13 points. Sumpter had 11 points fueled by a trio of 3-pointers. Maynard and Chisholm both finished with 10 points. Chisholm had six rebounds while Jeremy Baruch had eight boards. Will Mason added six rebounds to his six points.
For Charlottesville, Watson had eight points while Darrell Minor had six points on a pair of three’s.
The Black Knights (11-11, 6-4) will host its first round JD quarter final on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Western (16-6, 8-2) get a first round bye and play in the JD semifinals held at Fluvanna County on Tuesday with a time and opponent TBD.