Louisa County’s Buck Hunter rarely looks particularly exhausted after games despite playing huge minutes for the Lions each and every game.
But he looked pretty wiped out after an electric offensive start that eventually gave way to battling down to the wire Tuesday against Charlottesville in a critical 64-59 victory for Louisa. The win gave the Lions sole possession of first place in the Jefferson District and they can close out the Jefferson District championship and lock up a No. 1 seed in the JD tournament Wednesday at home against Orange County.
“We’ve got another one tomorrow and we’ve just got to come out with a chip on our shoulder and do what we need to do,” Hunter said.
The Lions knew the stakes Tuesday night and they wasted little time meeting the moment, lighting it up from beyond the arc in the first quarter to build a 30-12 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Lions hit seven total threes in the first half, with Terry Neely, Jarett Hunter, Buck Hunter and Mahlik Munnerlynn all connecting from outside. That advantage helped the Lions’ withstand a strong charge from the Black Knights in the third quarter and then hold Charlottesville at arm’s length down the stretch.
“It was big, but I think it was kind of a curse too because as a coach you know that’s not going to happen all game — we talked about the law of averages and that we were going to have to buckle down and run some good offense,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton.
The red-hot shooting start for the Lions briefly put Charlottesville on its heels, but the Black Knights finally going in the third quarter, with Jake Bowling giving them an injection of energy with eight quick points including a pair of 3-pointers.
“They shot the ball better than any team I’ve seen this year in the first quarter,” said Charlottesville coach Mitch Minor. “I told our guys I was really proud of the way we came back two at a time and made some really crucial stops. I’m just proud of the effort and intensity we had in the second half.”
The Black Knights scored 23 points in the third and cut the Louisa lead to four briefly before the Lions stretched it back out and led 55-48 heading into the third.
In the fourth, Charlottesville had chances to get over the hump with Louisa going just 5-for-12 at the free throw line, but the Black Knights just couldn’t get enough offense to take the lead down the stretch. Khishon Gray buried a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to cut the Louisa lead to just 62-59, but the Lions got two critical free throws from Neely and Isaac Haywood who had a monster second half on defense with a series of critical blocks. Those two free throws held up as Charlottesville missed on a drive and an inbounds under the basket late to allow Louisa to escape the hard-fought clash.
“It was real physical, they pressed and I stayed in the majority of the game,” Hunter said. “We came out hard and with intensity and they couldn’t handle it.”
Hunter finished with 18 to lead the Lions while Jarett Hunter notched 16, Munnerlynn chipped in a critical 15 and Neely had 10 off the bench. Bowling and Christian Stewart each had 13 points for the Black Knights, who dropped their second straight game after falling to Western last Friday. Zymir Faulkner had nine points in his return to the lineup after missing the game against the Warriors.
The Black Knights, who could’ve created a four-way tie for first in the district with a win over the Lions, now turn to Friday’s Jefferson District quarterfinals while Louisa will square off with Orange Wednesday for a chance to win its second-straight Jefferson District title.