In a game where every basket was contested and both teams played stifling defense, the last two minutes of Charlottesville and Western Albemarle’s rubber match in the Jefferson District Championship game was nothing short of thrilling.
A pair of 3-pointers from Black Knights senior Jake Bowling and Warriors senior Tommy Mangrum set the table. Then with 11.2 seconds remaining in a tie game coming out of a timeout, Charlottesville’s Zymir Faulkner slipped through two Western defenders and finished a drive to the basket with a floater above another contesting defender with the clock expiring to seal the win, 40-38.
“I knew the ball was going to come to me because I’m an (isolation) type of player, that’s my best game,” Faulkner said. “I didn’t want to get too relaxed and shoot a three because my shot wasn’t falling, I had missed two or three threes. So I just want to drive and try for the floater.”
It was a strange game up until the last half of the fourth. There were two big runs — both in the first half — but separation was hard to come by for either squad. After trailing by one or two possessions in the third, the Black Knights picked up their first lead of the second half when Boling hit the second of his three pointers on the night to make it 30-29 with 7:10 to go. His next shot from beyond the arc put Charlottesville up 38-25 with 2:20 to go.
“Coming back started with playing good defense, you have to against a good team like that,” Bowling said. “On the go-ahead three there, I had two of my shots blocked earlier in the game so I had to go with a pump fake to get the defender to fly by. It worked out perfectly. And with Z, I mean what can I say about him? That’s pretty special what he did.”
The Black Knights tried to kill the clock but a turnover from the Western defense gave the Warriors an opportunity to equalize things. Mangrum’s clutch three knotted things at 38-38 with 44.2.
“It’s always a battle with them and we made a big shot there with Tommy hitting that three,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We came out of the timeout and just didn’t function that well on defense where we did some stuff we shouldn’t have. But you have to give Charlottesville credit, they came out and made their big shot.”
If the night was about anything it was two rivals playing a classic Western/Charlottesville game in a packed house. While the Warriors tried to take advantage of their size, the Black Knights answered that call despite playing most of the second half without Isaiah Washington who battled foul trouble. Conversely, the Western defense kept Charlottesville from thriving in transition and playing at the breakneck speed it flourishes on.
“There was a lot of great defense out there tonight and I was happy because I thought we were more patient than usual on offense, not just jacking up threes,” said Black Knights coach Mitch Minor. “I thought we played some great defense too, only really broke down a couple of time to where almost every shot they took was contested so I was happy with effort there too.”
The Warriors opened the game with a 5-0 run but Charlottesville raced back to tie it at 9-9 at the buzzer with Nick Motley knocking down a 3-pointer that was part of an eventual 16-4 run. Trailing 16-9, Western put together an 11-2 run to finish the half with Henry Sullivan leading the attack offensively. That put the Warriors up 20-18 at the break. The third quarter saw little change as Western carried its 2-point lead into the fourth largely behind Mangrum while Charlottesville leaned on Christian Stewart and Faulkner.
“That was just a great game between two good teams,” Minor said.
On the night, Mangrum led all scorers with 18 points. Sullivan finished with nine points.
“We have to regroup quickly, we can’t let this one linger,” Maynard said. “I told them after the game, in 2018 when we made it to the state finals, we didn’t win the JD tournament either so it’s all about regrouping. Playing in these types of wars is only going to help us.”
For Charlottesville, Faulkner led the offense with 11 points while Motley and Bowling each chipped in nine points. This was Charlottesville’s first JD tournament championship since 2015.
The Black Knights will host their Region 3C opener on Friday at 7:30 p.m against either Fort Defiance or Wilson Memorial. The Warriors will also host their Region 3C first round game with Rockbridge on Friday at 7 p.m. This will be the first time both Charlottesville and Western have participated in the same regional bracket after years of the Black Knights playing at the Class 4 level prior to this season’s realignment, presenting the opportunity for a fourth match up.