By Ben Sheridan / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Coming off a win against Charlottesville just 24 hours earlier, Louisa County’s boys basketball needed a victory over Orange County to secure the Jefferson District regular season title and the first-round bye in the district tournament by virtue of capturing the No. 1 seed.
Thanks to some big-time performances, that’s exactly what the Lions did, finding a way to beat Orange 64-55 and win its second straight regular season Jefferson District championship.
“It’s always a battle when you play Orange — Louisa and Orange, there’s a history, a lot of these kids know each other and play with each other through childhood, they play together in AAU, so it’s always a tough battle,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton.
The first quarter see-sawed back and forth as each team matched each other in terms of scoring. For the Lions, Jarett Hunter put on a clinic packed with midrange jumpers, knocking down shot after shot to give himself an early 12 points. Hunter used the first quarter as a launching pad for a huge outing, finishing with 26 points to lead the Lions. Fueled by Hunter’s 12 in the first quarter, Louisa took a 14-13 edge over the Hornets into the second.
In the second, the Lions really found themselves on the defensive end of the floor, allowing only three made shots from the field. They also got in a groove on the perimeter, hitting three threes in the quarter. Both those developments helped them take a 32-23 advantage at the half.
In the third, both offenses were nailing their shots. The difference was that the Lions had Buck Hunter, who had 10 points in the frame. He finished with 15 points on the night, and helped spark his team to a 50-38 advantage going into the fourth.
At the start of the fourth, the Hornets began their surge. Led by big performances from Sihle Mthethwa and Kyle Adams, Orange went on a tear to make it a 56-54 game late in the fourth, echoes of Charlottesville’s run just a night earlier against Louisa late. Mthethwa finished the night with 20 points and six rebounds, while Adams had 12 points.
The Lions needed someone to rise to the occasion, and as he’s done countless times over his career, Jarett Hunter met the moment.
“That was a situation we’ve been in plenty of times, so staying in the gym, grinding, stuff like that and the work nobody sees — that’s where that’s most important,” said Hunter.
The senior point guard drove right by a Hornet defender, got into the paint and finished to put his team up 60-54 and then knocked down two clutch free throws to make it 62-54 with 36 seconds left. By then, the deficit proved to be too much for the Hornets to fight their way back from, as the Lions took the win, the trophy, and eventually the net as they cut down the nets following the victory.
While they took the time to celebrate, the Lions know they need to focus on the upcoming tournament, with last year’s postseason performance that ended with a loss in the state title game helping to fuel them.
“You definitely remember that feeling, that was something we try not to forget, and we don’t want to repeat that, we’ll take it one game at a time, but at the same time we know what we’re striving for,” said Hunter.
Orange County will head to Charlottesville High Friday for the district quarterfinals as the No. 5 seed in the JD. The winner of that game will square off with No. 1 Louisa County in the semifinals Monday.