By Ben Sheridan / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Late in the year when you’re a team fighting for first place in the Jefferson District, all wins are good wins.
Louisa County boys basketball was able to find a way to get one of those wins on the road Tuesday night against a tough Western Albemarle team that’s also near the top of the standings, drawing first blood in a three-team round robin that also includes Charlottesville that’ll likely decide the regular season district championship and the seeding in the upcoming JD tournament.
“I credit this to our leadership, and even the maturity of the young kids, everybody came in and played their role, the guys that normally step up for us did and they led us,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton.
The Warriors came out with a spark, opening up the scoring on a steal and dunk from Tommy Mangrum. Then Henry Sullivan got going, quickly establishing himself in the paint, posting up and getting after it on the offensive glass, leading the Warrior offense in the quarter with five points — he’d finish with nine.
For the Lions, the perimeter shooting was the early difference maker, as they made a couple of threes while the Warriors got their production inside. Leading the way with five points each were Mahlik Munnerlyn and Buck Hunter. Munnerlyn finished with 10 points, while Hunter led the Lions offensively, providing a big lift with 17 points. The Warriors however would take a 13-12 advantage to the second.
The Lions were able to march out to an early lead in the second, but Western wouldn’t let it stay that way for long. Led by Mangrum, they ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to give them a 25-24 lead at the half. Mangrum had five points in the quarter en route to a big 19-point performance for the game.
The two squads traded runs in the third quarter. It seemed like Warriors, led by eight points from Andrew Shifflett, were going to take control of the game, extending out to a 36-28 lead. Shifflett ended the game 12 points, and found a lot of success in the third driving the basketball. But then Buck Hunter helped spark a 7-0 Lions run, and eventually cut the Western lead to two going into the fourth.
That’s when Buck Hunter took control. It seemed the Lions were going to find a way to wrap things up behind Hunter’s surge, but then two late buckets from Sullivan down low helped the Warriors tie things up and had the ball for the last possession. The Lions’ defense stood strong, forcing a tough heave at the basket and forcing overtime.
“This is what we work on in practice, being disciplined, and being ready to defend a smart team, and that’s what we did,” said Buck Hunter.
That’s what the Lions did, and then continued to do in the overtime period, outscoring the Warriors 9-4 after Riley Pritchard’s opening bucket. The defense was great, and Jarett Hunter’s free throw shooting in the clutch helped to seal the game for the Lions, as they won 56-53, once again shutting down the Warriors on the final possession of the game. Hunter finished with 10 points for the Lions just hours after he committed to Howard University’s football program, while Pritchard would have 12 for Western.
“We gave great effort, all through the fourth quarter and overtime, we never stopped running, played good defense,” said Buck Hunter. “We knew what we had to do to take Tommy away, he’s a great player, and we were able to come out with the win.”
With the win, Louisa puts themselves at the top of the District standings along with Charlottesville, and will prepare for a rescheduled home game with Patrick Henry on Wednesday. The Warriors, still battling for the top district spot have a huge matchup on Friday night when they host Charlottesville.