For our 10 years of existence, we’ve always done Weekly Briefing for football season, breaking down every matchup each week. But recently we decided to take Weekly Briefing and expand it to basketball. There are too many games to break down every single one, but we’ve got a format in mind that we think will give you an inside look at what’s happening across the local basketball map each week.
This time of year, it becomes increasingly important to have a guard who can go get a bucket. The games are getting tighter and clutch baskets are going to be at a premium as we head down the stretch and into win-or-go-home territory. It’s just a fact that in those kind of games, you’re probably going to need someone who can create their own shot at a critical juncture and knock something down.
Luckily for Central Virginia teams, there are a ton of squads with guards who can go get that done. We’re going to miss a bunch here, and a couple of no doubt additions to this list like Charlottesville’s Zymir Faulkner and STAB’s Malachi Poindexter are nursing injuries currently, but here’s a few players who can go make something happen for their squad.
Blue Ridge has two of them in William Lee and Michael Gray who are averaging 14.9 and 14.6 points per game currently. Lee has expanded his game from outside shooter and top notch defender to an all around terror in the mold of former Blue Ridge and current Liberty standout Darius McGhee. Gray continues to be one of the area’s most consistent ball handlers who can also put it on the deck and attack the rim. Along with Kobe Jerome and his 4.0 assists per game, the Barons are loaded with guards who can make a clutch play happen down the stretch.
Louisa County’s Buck Hunter is undoubtedly one of those clutch guards. He’s hit a ton of big shots in his career — a clutch three against Western in their first meeting comes to mind — and he just never lacks confidence. It doesn’t matter how the last 10 shots have gone (at 19 points per game, those last 10 have usually gone pretty well), Hunter is going to take the 11th because he knows that one is going to fall.
Western’s boys can turn to Tommy Mangrum in those situations, and while Mangrum isn’t a traditional guard, his move to the win this year has gotten him into a lot of favorable matchups with opposing guards that he can shoot over or back down. Western is going to try and execute in the half court in those situations, and Mangrum gives them a ton of options in those scenarios.
Covenant’s boys, who should keep surging up the VISAA D3 rankings after upsetting Eastern Mennonite last week, have an obvious guy to turn to down the stretch in Jonas Sanker. He’s done it time and time again, but last week’s steal and dunk to finish off EMHS was a reminder of just how fierce he can be in tight, do-or-die situations.
Nelson County’s boys can rely on a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Brice Wilson and Houston Carter. William Monroe’s boys, who have crept into the Region 3B playoff picture, can turn to Logan Barbour while Goochland, who sits at No. 2 in those Region 3B rankings, can count on Kam Holman or Quincy Snead or Quincy Snead to attack from the guard spot. Fluvanna’s boys look to Kobe Edmonds to generate offense in key spots, and lately he’s been electric for a squad trying to surge late and battle their way into the Region 3C playoffs.
On the girls side, STAB’s Mo Johnson can go get a bucket for the Saints, and she clearly knows when it’s time to put the Saints on her back as evidenced by her 23-point, 10-rebound, 6-assist performance against St. Gertrude to avenge the Saints’ lone LIS loss last week. If the No. 3-ranked team in VISAA’s Division I is going to advance to the state final again in 2020, Johnson will likely have to be the player to step up in those key situations.
Charlottesville’s girls are balanced, but T.C. Younger might be the answer in the clutch for the Black Knights. She’s an excellent ball handler and usually a decisive driver and capable of some explosive offensive numbers. Albemarle can look to Sylvie Jackson or Jaime Rademacher when the Patriots need a bucket, as both can create and have shown that they’ve got some ice water in their veins and aren’t shook by big moments.
For William Monroe’s girls, Hailey Morris is often going to be an answer in the clutch. A solid 3-point shooter, she’s also emerged as an adept passer, and since getting the ball to the absurdly productive Martha Apple down low might be the actual ideal situation when the Dragons need a bucket, Morris’ ability to get in the lane and dish to create an advantage might be a difference maker.
Louisa’s girls may be a darkhorse in the Jefferson District tournament because Olivia McGhee can simply go get it done. If McGhee decides to take over down the stretch, there just might not be a lot that opponents can do with the 6-foot-2 freshman point guard. And don’t look now, but the Lions have won three straight coming into a Tuesday clash with Charlottesville.
Here are a few players who are playing particularly well lately.
Tae Toney, Buckingham County boys
Buckingham County boys basketball is playing solid basketball right now, as evidenced by a huge 65-48 victory over Goochland, and Tae Toney is a huge reason why. Toney had 15 points and 14 rebounds in that victory over the Bulldogs and 16 points and 12 boards against Prince Edward Monday. That kind of productivity from a guard on the boards is huge — it shows the Knights’ commitment to crashing and limiting teams to a single possession, and that’s part of why the Knights have put together their best campaign since the 2013 season. Each night someone else is stepping up, and lately it has been Toney.
Ella Dalton, Covenant girls
In five straight victories for the Eagles, Ella Dalton has ripped off three double doubles, and Monday she scored another 15 points against Carlisle in a 42-37 win over Carlisle. In a complete destruction of Fuqua a week ago, Dalton scored 24 points and notched 20 rebounds. Dalton’s furious finish to her high school career has helped put the Eagles in the conversation for a state tournament berth as they’re also receiving votes in the private school VISAA D2 poll.
Carmella Jackson, Charlottesville girls
Charlottesville is so balanced and deep that there’s no easy way to clamp down on the Black Knights — you’ve just got to play a complete team game defensively. That’s because Carmella Jackson is one of several Black Knights who’ve just been a model of consistency lately, scoring 10, 13 and 10 points in critical wins over E.C. Glass, Fluvanna County and Western that have helped the Black Knights comfortably secure the No. 2 spot in the Region 3C playoffs currently behind Spotswood. As long as Jackson and the rest of the Black Knights keep doing their job, CHS should be able to put together an impressive playoff run.
Where They Stand
Jefferson District Boys
Team Overall District
Louisa 15-4 8-2
Charlottesville 17-3 8-3
Western 17-5 9-3
Albemarle 15-5 8-3
Orange 13-8 3-7
Fluvanna 8-13 2-9
Monticello 4-18 0-11
Jefferson District Girls
Team Overall District
Albemarle 16-5 9-2
Charlottesville 15-5 9-2
Western 12-8 7-5
Louisa 11-8 5-5
Fluvanna 11-10 5-6
Monticello 5-14 3-8
Orange 1-15 0-10
Can’t Miss Matchups
Fluvanna at Monticello boys, Tuesday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The most likely path for Fluvanna County to get into the playoffs is to win against Monticello and hold off Rockbridge in the Region 3C standings by finishing seventh. The Flucos essentially have to have this win to have a shot at the region playoffs, which opens the door for the Mustangs to play spoiler in what has otherwise been a frustrating season as far as the win column is concerned. Monticello has made a bunch of awfully good teams sweat it out though like Albemarle last Friday who escaped the Mustangs with a 46-41 victory. So this is far from an automatic win for the Flucos, as evidenced by their own 52-50 win earlier this month against Monticello. The Mustangs want to slow things down and dictate the pace. They do that with a deliberate offense and if Justin McCartney is knocking down shots, they become pretty tough to beat. Fluvanna is more comfortable in transition, with Malachi Hill, Isaac Rivera and Kobe Edmonds all capable of finishing on the break. This one will likely come down to the wire.
Key matchup: Monticello’s defense takes on Fluvanna’s Edmonds. Edmonds has been red hot of late, pouring in 31 points Friday against Charlottesville after dropping 27 on Goochland five days earlier. He’s doing it in system and on the break too, he’s not forcing up shots, so if he can continue to give the Flucos that kind of offense, Monticello is going to have its hands full. That said, the Mustangs have played pretty good team defense of late, so Edmonds may face a stiff challenge.
The line: Fluvanna by 3. Big-time stakes for the Flucos and they take a leap forward winning a game they should win.
Louisa County at Charlottesville boys, Tuesday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: This is sort of the chaotic but logical end point for one of the most balanced, deep years in recent memory on the boys’ side in the Jefferson District. Two teams playing for either an outright title for Louisa County or a wild four-way tie between the Lions, Black Knights, Western Albemarle and Albemarle. One big key here is whether Zymir Faulkner, CHS’s leading scorer who didn’t play in Friday’s game against Western, can go against the Lions. Offense was hard to come by for the Black Knights against the Warriors with him out, and Louisa has a pretty potent offense coupled with a defense that’s giving up just 55 points per game. If Faulkner doesn’t go, the Black Knights need their other scoring threats to step up like they did in the first half of Friday’s game with Western — Christian Stewart in particular who had 14 of his 15 before the break. If Nick Motley and Jake Bowling get going it’ll go a long way toward countering the Jarett Hunter/Buck Hunter combination for the Lions in the backcourt.
Key matchup: Charlottesville’s Nick Motley versus Louisa’s Jarett Hunter at the point guard spot. Two of the area’s top point guards lock horns and this is a clash of styles too. Motley keeps the pedal down seemingly at all times, looking to push opponents with his pace, while Hunter shifts gears and tempo frequently, keeping opponents off guard while rarely — if ever — getting rattled himself. Whichever point guard can play within system and get his offense going will have a big edge here.
The line: Charlottesville by 1. The Black Knights get the edge for three reasons: they won the first matchup on the road by 3, they’re at home this time and the JD seems to demand chaos this year, so a four-way tie seems like a lock.
STAB at Trinity Episcopal boys, Friday 6 p.m.
The basics: We knew that St. Anne’s-Belfield’s boys basketball team was going to be pretty good this year, but the Saints have exceeded most expectations with an unbeaten run so far through Prep League play and a No. 5 ranking in VISAA’s Division I. This game is a rematch of an instant classic where the Saints prevailed on a Malachi Poindexter gamewinner three weeks ago. The issue now will be that this could be a much thinner version of the Saints’ lineup with Poindexter potentially out — he’s been out of the lineup of late and Chance Mallory has stepped up in a big way, particularly against Covenant Friday. Trinity Episcopal is a different animal, the No. 6-ranked squad in Division I and home to Duke pledge Henry Coleman. It took everything STAB had the first time around, can they find a way to get it done again?
Key matchup: STAB’s Justin Taylor versus Trinity’s defense. Taylor had 14 points in the last matchup, but he’ll likely need an even bigger outing for the Saints to overcome a dynamic Trinity Episcopal offense. The 79-77 final from last time likely means both offenses need to get things going to come out on top. Look for Trinity to throw a lot at Taylor, this is yet another chance for him to continue proving himself to be one of the area’s top rising stars.
The line: STAB by 3. This won’t be easy by any stretch for the Saints, but it’s a huge opportunity.