When Western Albemarle’s play underneath is top notch, the Warriors are tough to beat.
Western’s Austin Cress, Jed Strickland and Teo Rampini made sure Friday night against Monticello in a 67-45 win that that was the case.
“I thought inside we pretty much had our way,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We were really aggressive in there and it’s something we’ve been working on and felt like we needed to add more of the inside piece to things.”
Cress notched 15 points and nine rebounds, Strickland had 11 points, nine of them in the second quarter alone and Rampini had seven points and seven rebounds. They also played tough defense down low, limiting what Monticello’s slashing group of guards could do off the dribble.
The Warriors had to shake off a slow start to get there though, as the Mustangs put together a solid first quarter with 14 points with five different players scoring led by Jacoby Jackson notching five of his 10 points in that frame.
“The first quarter we didn’t play with enough energy I thought but the second quarter we started to pick that up,” said Western senior Ryan Ingram. “Our bigs played really, really well tonight.”
Ingram, who had a pretty good week after being accepted at Swarthmore, an academic power that he’ll play basketball for next year, finished with 13 points for the Warriors. He benefited from the Mustangs’ defense having to collapse more in the post as Strickland and Cress got going and Josh Coffman also made Monticello pay from the outside with 17 points including a trio of 3-pointers. Coffman set up on the wing and attacked.
Monticello struggled to get going offensively after a solid first quarter where their work defensively created a string of Western turnovers and a narrow lead for the Mustangs. But with Western finding its groove in the second quarter, the Mustangs were in a 41-23 hole at the break.
“I thought the first quarter and the beginning of the third quarter we kind of did the same thing and started slow but I thought our effort level and energy level in the second quarter was awesome and kind of turned the game around,” Maynard said.
Ukari Brooks had 11 to lead the Mustangs’ offensive effort while Dean Lockley contributed eight points and Malik Barbour chipped in seven.
Western gets a rematch with Mills Godwin Tuesday while Monticello travels to take on Heritage-Lynchburg the same night.