By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplay.com contributor
With such a competitive Jefferson District year in and year out, Albemarle girls’ basketball coach Rachel Proudfoot always seeks to challenge her team early in an effort to prepare them for the league grind.
The Patriots opened the 2017-18 campaign with a home game against 5A foe Tuscarora sandwiched between a pair of clashes with 3A state powerhouse Spotswood.
Proudfoot’s troops fell short in all three contests, but she felt as though her team made strides while playing against the elite competition, and those tough losses would pay dividends in Friday’s district opener against Monticello.
The sixth-year head coach’s theory proved true.
Albemarle, behind a trio of double-digit scorers raced out to a huge first half lead and cruised to a 62-50 triumph to earn its first win of the season.
The Patriots (1-3) made life miserable for the Mustangs as soon as they inbounded the ball. Using a nice combination of the press and intense half-court pressure, Albemarle combined for 14 steals as a team to open up a 24-6 lead after a fast-paced opening quarter.
Thanks in large part to its defensive pressure, Albemarle could do no wrong on the offensive end early on, as the Patriots registered 30 points in the game’s first 10 minutes of play.
“We wanted to come out running,” Proudfoot said. “We played against some very quick teams up to this point so we were hoping that the speed would stay there… I like the speed that we came out with and we were making some very good choices out there on offense.”
Sabrini Shisbey led Albemarle with 12 points in the winning effort. Typically a wing, Proudfoot inserted Shisbey into the starting lineup as a post player for the second time this season in Friday’s win. Shisbey stood toe to toe with a tall and physical Monticello frontcourt, but the junior more than held her own, shooting 100 percent from the field.
“We knew we had speed and matching up with [Monticello’s] posts who were a little bigger, and [Shisbey] gives us great energy out there and it has been good for us for her to be out there and use that speed to run the floor,” Proudfoot said.
Makinna Winterton and Haylee Howard chipped in 11 and 10 points respectively, while combining for eight of Albemarle’s 14 steals on the night. Both Winterton and Howard collected six rebounds a piece as well. Eight total Patriots touched the scoreboard tonight as AHS led by double digits for the overwhelming majority of the contest.
Trailing by 19 at the break, the Mustangs (2-2) began to show some life in the second half. Monticello outscored AHS 39-32 in the final two quarters and slowly chipped away at the deficit throughout the late-third and early fourth quarter.
Monticello got as close as 13 points down early in the fourth, before the Patriots quickly stretched the lead back up to 20.
Albemarle appeared to be walking away with a more deceive win late in the contest, before Monticello guard Siriyah Hughes reeled off seven points in less than a minute, following a four-point play and another made triple. Hughes recorded 10 of her co-game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Mustangs claw to within 11 with just over two minutes left to play.
Camille Blaine was a force inside for Monticello, tallying 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for the Mustangs.
Senior Hannah Shifflett had a productive night across the board with 11 rebounds, six blocks, five points, three steels, and three assists.
Though she was unhappy with the way in which her team closed the game, Proudfoot feels that her team took several steps forward in Friday’s Jefferson District opener.
“We are trying to lower our turnovers and convert more on our steals. That was something that we really tried to fight for tonight,” Proudfoot said. “Overall, I want to see 12 of us succeed and when only six of us succeed, that’s when you see that lull in the second half.”
Albemarle will look for its second win of the season on Monday night against Powhatan, while the Mustangs will continue its three-game road tour on Tuesday at Orange County.