Against Monticello boys basketball, you’ve got to value your possessions and protect the ball or the Mustangs have proven they can make things tough on opponents. Western Albemarle avoided that trap Friday night.
The Warriors got a huge third quarter surge Friday and knocked off Monticello 55-29 to keep pace in the increasingly wild Jefferson District race.
The Warriors turned the ball over just nine times as a team and nobody on the roster committed more than one turnover. Minimizing mistakes along with 12 points and four steals from Andrew Shifflett, a game-high 17 from Tommy Mangrum and another eight points from Luca Tessoreire was more than enough to lift Western past the Mustangs.
“I think we’re deeper than people think and more balanced than people think and that’s a good thing going forward,” said Western coach Darren Maynard.
The decisive turn in the game came in the third, with Western outscoring the Mustangs 18-5 in the frame with six of Tessoreire’s eight creating the biggest impact.
“A lot of guys who haven’t played a lot of minutes really stepped into a big role tonight,” said Western’s Riley Prichard, who had three assists.
Prichard hit a circus shot in the third quarter on an aggressive drive down the left side of the lane as he fell out of bounds. The bucket energized the Western student section and seemed to give the Warriors a needed shot in the arm.
“We were just trying to attack the basket and increase our lead — we knew we had to come out strong in the third quarter to put them away,” Prichard said.
Monticello has made a habit of slowing down opponents and forcing them to play at the Mustangs pace for stretches this year. When Monticello is knocking down shots, the strategy works particularly well as it did when the Mustangs just missed knocking off Charlottesville 53-49 two weeks ago. But an offensive dry spell against an already stingy Western defense made things tough on the Mustangs as the game wore on.
A three from Drew Hall in the first quarter kept the Mustangs close early as they trailed just 11-8 at the end of the opening frame, but Western got going offensively in the second and outscored Monticello 14-8. A 25-16 hole proved a little much for the Mustangs to crawl out of especially after that explosive Western third quarter.
Kasai Hansberrry led the Mustangs with 11 points while Justin McCartney chipped in six points.
Henry Sullivan played well defensively early for the Warriors who enjoyed a significant size advantage over the Mustangs. Lucas Farmer had five rebounds and three blocks for the Warriors, who shook off Josh Sime being out with the flu and the absence of Isaac Sumpter as well.
The Mustangs will look to bounce back on the road against Orange while the Warriors face a critical home clash with Louisa County Tuesday. A win there would keep the Warriors’ district title hopes alive.