Let Him Go: Anderson hits gamewinner to push Albemarle past Western

J'Quan Anderson releases the gamewinner. Photo by Ashley Thornton

When J’Quan Anderson gets locked in, he’s no longer playing a game. He becomes more Terminator than athlete.


“My gameplan is to destroy anyone in front of me,” Anderson said. “When we go down I just want to put my team on my back.”


Anderson came up with six steals and then drove and finished a tough shot at the rim with 1.8 seconds to play to lift Albemarle past Western 55-53.  


Anderson’s coach has learned to trust when Anderson goes into that mode.


“I thought about calling timeout,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard as the clock wound down with Anderson holding the ball. “But at that point he had one man on him and we were going to spread it out, I said, lets let him go. J’Quan is a special player down the stretch.”


That trust actually extends to the entire roster for Maynard. He’s seen enough past history to know that with this group, they’ll figure it out.


“I just have a lot of trust in the whole team,” Maynard said. “I used to get all tight and worked up over these Western games — with this bunch they’re just so loose and relaxed, they just go out and play.”


That loose approach has paid off for Albemarle as the win over pushes the Patriots to 19-0 on the year. But the Patriots were anything but loose in the third quarter. Down seven at the break to the Warriors, Albemarle turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, with Cartier Key, who drew the tough assignment of guarding Chris McGahren much of the night. Key gives up several inches of height to McGahren, a 6-foot-3 guard who finished with a game high 19 points, scoring eight of those 19 in the fourth.  


“Cartier just says ‘heart over height’ and just does what he does,” Anderson said.


Western held a huge height advantage across the board on the Patriots and Albemarle seemed to figure out how to counter that in the second half. They applied relentless pressure, particularly on the guards while leaving Na’il Arnold, who had eight boards, to fend for himself underneath. That’s when Anderson started creating turnover after turnover, and even as fouls piled up with Kaysean Allen fouling out for Albemarle, the Patriots kept the pedal down, with an array of fastbreaks triggered by Anderson or Key on steals near halfcourt.


“They just got all over us in the second half and we didn’t handle that well,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “At some point you’ve got to adapt, you know what they’re going to do every time.”


With the game tied at 40-40 at the end of the third, the teams traded buckets until Anderson went on a huge run of his own. Western had managed to hold him to just three points in the first three frames, but he suddenly caught fire in the fourth. He hit a three, then immediately stole the ball on the other end, took it to the rack and drew a foul. He scored six straight points to make it 49-46 Albemarle.


Western broke right back and retook the lead with McGahreen hitting free throws — he went 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth — to retake the lead at 50-49. Minutes later after some delay efforts by Albemarle, Western played some tough defense in the post and came up with the ensuing rebound and jump ball. That gave Western the ball with 45.3 seconds left and the game tied at 53-53.


“I’m really proud of our guys, that’s a super effort,” said Western’s Darren Maynard. “We’ve had a bunch of these where we’re in position to win against some really good teams and we haven’t won any of them. We’re just as good as anybody else I think we just haven’t gotten over the hump.”


Out of the timeout, Albemarle forced a five-second call on the inbounds when Arnold came off covering the inbounds to cut off what might have been an easy outlet. The Patriots then melted the clock until Anderson dove down the left side of the lane and connected, setting off a wild reaction by the student section and his teammates. After the court was cleared, Western got one last chance with 1.8 seconds left on the clock. A full length pass by Garrett Payne found a Western player near the baseline who tried to hit a turnaround three but couldn’t find the net.


Maxx Jarmon led the Patriots with 15 points while Anderson finished with 14, 11 of them in the fourth quarter. Key had 11 points, all in the second half. Jed Strickland added 14 points to bolster McGahren’s 19-point performance.


Albemarle has a huge game Tuesday on the road against Louisa County that could lock up a Jefferson District regular season title while Western (12-5) will try and bounce back against Madison Monday and Fluvanna Tuesday as part of a busy week.