Albemarle boys basketball’s Kywan Washington knows a simple fact about basketball — and in particular late game situations.
“I tried to get the energy up for my team and in basketball the most energy on the court comes from defense,” Washington said. “I try and bring that intensity every game.”
The Patriots cranked up the defensive intensity against Western Albemarle down the stretch and rallied from 11 points down to edge the Warriors 44-42 in the rubber match between the two programs that split the first two meetings.
Albemarle forced a crucial five-second call and a couple of huge turnovers including a steal by Dasaun Taylor. That defensive effort gave the Albemarle offense the opportunity to slice into the lead. The Patriots made good on that chance with a Will Hornsby three and a trio of critical buckets by Josh Morse in the fourth including the go-ahead basket that put Albemarle up 43-42 with just under a minute to play. Morse’s performance was incredible in the closing minutes especially after being held almost entirely in check during the first three quarters by Henry Sullivan and Joshua Sime.
“Josh shows out every game and he was kind of cold during the first half but he pushed through it in the fourth quarter and got us here,” Washington said.
Morse had just five points in those first three quarters and he had to fight for most of his 11 in the fourth with a pair of critical stickbacks after offensive rebounds. Morse finished with 13 rebounds to go with his 16 points for a double double and also had five blocks.
“He’s had a tremendous half season and to come up with those big baskets like he has and to help our team against two trees in there,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard. “Regardless of how many times he got bumped or pushed or shoved he found a way to get it in the hole enough to win the game.”
Washington kept Albemarle in the game during the first three quarters were points were tough to come by, scoring eight points including two crucial threes. On the second one in the third, Washington was confidently calling for the ball, a refreshing sight for the Patriots who’ve struggled at times to find offense beyond Morse this year.
“I was kind of on the whole night so I wanted it, but I know if I don’t get it my teammates, they’ll get it,” Washington said.
Western built its 11-point lead mostly in the third right at the start of the frame, with Tommy Mangrum knocking down two huge 3-pointers. There wasn’t much movement after that until Hornsby knocked down the three with under two minutes to cut what Albemarle had already whittled to a six point lead in half at 42-39. That’s when things started to snowball for the Warriors with the five-second call and steal playing critical roles. Albemarle’s suffocating defense on inbounds plays made it tough for the Warriors to get into what they wanted to get into down the stretch.
“Western runs their stuff so well and they got a lot of easy baskets because they do that,” Maynard said. “We’ve just got to try and keep pressure on them all the time and make it tough to complete those passes.”
For the Warriors, the loss had to feel a little like reliving a nightmare as just a week ago in a similarly low-scoring affair Western controlled the action for much of the game before a late surge by Louisa sparked a massive comeback where the Lions won 52-51.
“That’s about as disappointing and frustrating of a loss as I’ve ever had, we don’t lose many games when we’re up 10,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We’re making some of the same mistakes over and over again.”
The ending was unfortunate for the Warriors for another reason too as in the first half Mangrum scored his 1000th career point. He finished with 18, the lone Warrior in double figures as Riley Prichard, Andrew Shifflett and Sime each finished with six.
“He’s meant the world to this program, he’s obviously one of the best to ever play here,” Maynard said. “He’s put himself in the upper echelon and we’ve had some really good players play here, but he’s certainly in that conversation.”
Western will travel to take on Fluvanna Tuesday night while Albemarle will host Monticello Monday.