As far as basketball goes locally, there’s always one guarantee — when Charlottesville plays in its own gym, it plays with a fangs-out aggression that can easily break a game wide open early. The Black Knights were outscored in the second quarter and the fourth, but that hardly mattered because of the first quarter they had against Monticello. Thanks mostly to an eight minute burst that put the writing on the wall, Charlottesville cruised to a 64-43 win.
“We had the energy, especially initially of just getting after them with a couple of steals, some nice shooting,” said Black Knights coach Mitch Minor. “I think that really set the tone.”
On a night where both student sections were draped in holiday apparel, Charlottesville was seated and mum during the opening introductions. Playing their own game of “O’ Silent Night” they didn’t come to life until a Nic Motley buried a 3-pointer. With Sam Neale and Immanuel Wells helped the Black Knights out to an 8-0 start on both ends of the floor, the freshman guard’s trey made it 11-0 and brought even more energy out.
“We had a lot of motion, guys getting to the basket and that opened it up for the shooters,” Motley said. “We play fast but in this offense you still have to be patient.”
Charlottesville didn’t surrender a field goal in the first quarter. With a high pressure defense forcing turnovers and success on the defensive glass, the Black Knights were able to race way out in front, by as much as 23-3 at the buzzer thanks to a three from Tyree Carter.
Monticello had just two field goals in the first half, and the first was because of an attempted block that wound up being goaltending. But with Charlottesville’s defensive pressure turning into foul trouble, the Mustangs were able to make things respectable at the break by winning the second quarter at the free throw line mostly. A 23-3 game just eight minutes prior turned into a 36-19 game at the break.
“They shot almost 20 free throws in the first half, so we’ve got to do better than that and stay out of foul trouble,” Minor said. “The dribble drive stuff, defensively, we’ve got to be better at that and keep guys in front. You hold a team to two field goals in the first half, you should probably be doing better than where we were.”
In the second half, Monticello was able to get within 15-points of the lead but then Charlottesville got A.J. Stouffer and and Wells going inside as they scored 10 of the team’s 12 third quarter points to make it 48-26 going into the fourth.
“It seems like a different player is stepping up for us each night and we’ve had to have it,” Minor said. “Rotating all these guys in these first couple of weeks we’re developing role players and getting guys experience in situations where we need them to step up offensively and defensively.”
It was an uneventful fourth. While Thad Lane was able to pour in nine fourth quarter points and the Mustangs took advantage of their free throw attempts, the Black Knights countered with six points from Neal and four from Stouffer to keep a healthy 20-point margin going the rest of the way and lead to a quiet bench-play ending to the game.
“All we talked about coming into tonights in practice was about intensity, trying to pressure them and the gym would get loud,” Neale said. “So we just tried to keep the intensity up and get after it and this was the result.”
On the night, Neale led Charlottesville with 16 points. Wells finished with 13 points, as did Motley. Stouffer chipped in 10 points.
For Monticello only two starters finished with points. The Mustangs got a team best 16 points from Lane and 10 points from Dylan Scheel. Both Dean Lockley and Airrick Salisbury finished with eight points. That quartet was responsible for 42 of the 43 points that Monticello scored. In addition to that, the Mustangs picked up 20 of their 43 points at the line.
Monticello will travel to Douglas Freeman on Tuesday while Charlottesville hosts Orange County.