Good things usually happen when you hold your opponent without a field goal in the first quarter.
Monticello did just that to Western Albemarle on Friday night, opening up a 10-2 lead after one quarter and holding on at the end to stun the district-leading Warriors on Monticello’s home floor 28-26.
With the win, the Mustangs grabbed possession of the Scrimmage Play Belt for the second time this season.
Camille Blaine’s nine points led the Mustangs, whose offense kept humming in the second quarter as the Warriors finally began to sink some shots. A basket by Blaine, who finished with nine rebounds and three blocks, just before the halftime buzzer gave MHS an 18-11 lead going into the break.
“That’s what we focused on — the little things,” Mustangs head coach Juwuhn Smith said. “As long as we’re doing what we need to do on defense, the offense will come.”
Western, led by Sydney Sherman’s six points and nine points. They limited Monticello in the third but continued to struggle offensively, managing just five points as Monticello led by eight after three.
“We did not look like ourselves tonight,” Western coach Kris Wright said. “What makes us good is being focused defensively and working to get the shots we want. We didn’t do that in the first quarter and we didn’t do that the whole game.”
In the fourth, Western’s defense locked down. A 3-pointer by Anna O’Shea helped trim the deficit to 24-21, the closest it had been since the first quarter. The Mustangs helped Western’s cause greatly by missing all four of their free-throw attempts in the final period, but Hannah Shifflett, who had eight points and 11 rebounds for Monticello, hit two field goals in the quarter and it proved just enough as Western cut the lead to two with under a minute to go, but turned the ball over with and then failed to get a shot off on the last possession.
“One of my biggest focuses is holding onto leads,” Smith said. “We have a tendency to play rushed and out of control. So I’m really proud. We made progress tonight.”
Western’s Mady Starsia came up with four steals and seven rebounds. Caity Driver had four boards.
Monticello will travel to take on Louisa County Tuesday night. Western Albemarle, who could have clinched a share of the Jefferson District title with a win over the Mustangs, will look to sew up a share of the championship against Orange County at home Tuesday.