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.
Sometimes it just takes time to make a big leap. Sometimes it takes a position or role change.
Sometimes it takes a little of both.
A ton of local players have elevated their game in a big way this season, but three have been particularly impressive — Blue Ridge’s Maliq Brown, Western’s Andrew Shifflett and STAB’s Malachi Poindexter.
For Brown, it has really been about time. Just a sophomore, you could see the potential last year and he still has a long time ahead of him. But he’s had a breakout campaign that comes on the heels of a major elevation in his recruitment last summer. He’s a smooth but tough athlete who can hold his own underneath and wreak havoc on the wing. He’s averaging 9.6 points, 6.1 boards, 1.6 steals and 2.0 assists per game. He’s an offensive threat and you know he’s playing defense well too because you can’t get on the floor at Blue Ridge without playing defense.
Western’s Shifflett has taken things up a major notch because of a role change — simply put, more minutes opened up in the Western backcourt with graduation and Shifflett has been up for the challenge. Shifflett has been steady and at times brilliant, an adept and creative passer who can also finish at the rim. He’s averaging 7.4 points, 4.9 boards and 2.8 assists per game and last week had 12 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds against Monticello. If Shifflett keeps playing at a high level and Western gets healthy, the Warriors can make some noise in the postseason.
For STAB’s Poindexter, there’s a little bit of time and role change at work here. Poindexter has been more of an off guard during his career, this year he’s switched to point guard, running the show for a young but talented STAB roster. In the process, all his numbers have taken a serious jump. He’s gone from 9.7 to 13.2 points per game, from 3.2 boards to 4.0 per game and, most importantly, from 1.5 assists to 5.0 assists per game. That’s made STAB quite a bit better and helped vault the Saints to the top of the Prep League standings. Bottom line? Poindexter as playmaker has paid off in a big way for the Saints.
All three of these players have been instrumental to their teams’ seasons. Can they all keep it rolling down the stretch?
Here are a few players who are playing particularly well lately.
Mo Johnson, St. Anne’s-Belfield
STAB’s girls had a busy week last week with a trio of games, posting a 2-1 mark during the stretch after losing a quick turnaround game against Sidwell Friends Saturday after dismantling Collegiate Friday. Johnson was her usual off the charts self in those three, posting 15 points, 11 boards and five steals against Central Virginia Homeschool, 16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and seven steals against Collegiate and 30 points against Sidwell Friends. That near quadruple double against an LIS foe is particularly impressive as the freshman continues the torrid pace she has set for her career.
Will Hornsby, Albemarle
Perhaps no team has endured as many injury issues as Albemarle lately, who lost Josh Morse to a foot injury and then Jackson Rose to a leg injury against Charlottesville Friday. But throughout that adversity, the Patriots have embraced a next-man-up approach and Hornsby has been one of the players stepping up. In three wins last week, Hornsby notched 15 points against Riverbend, seven against Fluvanna and then unleashed a monster game against Charlottesville, going for 17 points and eight boards against the Black Knights. With Morse and Rose out, Albemarle is going to be searching for production in a lot of different spots. Hornsby appears poised to be one of the answers.
Ella Dalton, Covenant
Covenant picked up a solid overtime win last Thursday, rallying to beat Holy Cross 58-52. It was a big-time effort from Dalton that got the Eagles over the hump as she scored 19 points, grabbed 13 boards and swiped 11 steals while dishing out seven assists in the victory. That’s a triple double that was nearly a quadruple. Dalton has put up some huge numbers this season and she gives Covenant a chance to win on any given night like she has much of her career. But she’s made a solid jump as a senior, boosting her points per game from 14.0 to 17.1 and rebounding from 12.0 to 14.1 boards.
Where They Stand
Jefferson District Boys
Team Overall District
Western 16-4 8-2
Charlottesville 15-2 7-2
Louisa 12-4 6-2
Albemarle 15-5 8-3
Orange 12-8 2-6
Fluvanna 8-11 1-7
Monticello 4-14 1-9
Jefferson District Girls
Team Overall District
Albemarle 14-5 8-2
Charlottesville 12-5 7-2
Western 12-5 7-3
Fluvanna 11-9 5-5
Louisa 9-8 2-6
Monticello 4-13 2-7
Orange 1-15 0-8
Can’t Miss Matchups
Miller at Blue Ridge boys, Tuesday 6 p.m.
The basics: Fun stat: Blue Ridge is 45-1 at home since Cade Lemcke took the reins as the program’s head coach. That lone loss was back in 2018 to Miller. Blue Ridge rarely loses in Massey Gym, and after a 16-point blowout in the first meeting you wouldn’t think this is going to be one of those rare losses. But the Blue Ridge/Miller rivalry produces some head scratchers — just when you think one team has gained the upper hand in a big way, the script flips. But for now, this one should come down to depth like the first one did, with Blue Ridge pulling away in a significant way in the second half as Miller’s heavy reliance on its starters eventually led to some struggles. The Mavericks enter the rivalry clash on a two-game skid with losses to Hargrave and Middleburg but they’ve got five players averaging in double figures, led by Clarence Rupert’s 19.6 points per game. They couldn’t find an answer for the Barons’ William Lee last time out though, which is understandable because most teams can’t contain Lee this year. He’s posting 15.3 points per game and dishing out 2.7 assists. The Barons are solid passers with three guards capable of setting the table in Lee, Michael Gray and Kobe Jerome. Again, depth may be the issue because Miller’s lead guards Quadir Pettaway, Amir Nesbitt and Gabe Jimerson aren’t going to get much relief off the bench.
Key matchup: The rebounding battle. Miller is heavy on guards and Rupert spends a lot of time on the perimeter where he’s a deadly 3-point shooter. The Mavericks are averaging just 8.6 boards per game as a team. Blue Ridge, on the other hand, checks in with 34.1 boards per contest, getting it done with five players averaging five or more rebounds each — Maliq Brown, Andy Nwaoko, Michael Gray and Sasha Glushkov. Can Blue Ridge take advantage of what should be a major advantage on the glass?
The line: Blue Ridge by 7. The Barons are
Louisa County at Western Albemarle boys, Tuesday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: This one gained importance with Charlottesville’s loss to Albemarle Friday as now three teams — the Black Knights, Western and Louisa — have two losses in district play each. It gets particularly interesting because they’re all three about to enter what amounts to a round robin three-team tournament starting with this game Tuesday. The Warriors and Lions Tuesday, Warriors and Black Knights Friday and then the Black Knights and Lions next Tuesday, February 11. All three teams essentially can control their own destiny at this moment. Western controlled the first matchup with Louisa until the fourth quarter where a Warriors squad playing on short wrest gave way to a more fresh Lions team that got some big shots down the stretch. Riley Prichard and Andrew Shfflett will do battle in the backccourt with Jarett Hunter and Buck Hunter and all four are active guards capable of scoring or setting up teammates. Western’s Tommy Mangrum could be due for a big game, he’s showed up big in key spots for the Warriors this year. He might be the X-factor here, a matchup problem for the Lions on the perimeter.
Key matchup: Western’s Henry Sullivan takes on Louisa’s Isaac Haywood. While late heroics from Buck Hunter and Mahlik Munnerlynn were difference makers for the Lions in the first meeting, a stretch of buckets by Haywood in the second quarter steadied a reeling Louisa team. Sullivan has been an active presence of late for the Warriors in the paint on defense and he’ll likely have to square off against Haywood’s leaping ability Tuesday night.
The line: Western by 1. The Warriors get the edge at home, but this one is a toss up.
Buckingham at Goochland boys, Thursday 7:30 p.m.
The basics: The last time these two squads locked up, there was a weird finish precipitated by a series of technicals and extracurricular action on the court that led both teams to have to finish the game in front of a cleared gym with no bench and no crowd. This is an intense rivalry in part because it has been happening for a while now and in part because its one of the few times both programs get tested in the James River District. These are measuring stick games for both teams and there’s an extra edge to the game because of that. Goochland is already coming off an emotionally charged clash with Fluvanna County on Monday where the Bulldogs surrendered 33 fourth quarter points to fall for just the third time this year. Can they regroup, reset and knock off the Knights? Kam Holman’s 27 points against the Flucos is a pretty good indicator of what Goochland is capable of right now, a team that thrives in unsettled situations and can run. Buckingham counters with a heavy dose of Tae Toney who had a monster double double last week against Cumberland with 19 points and 15 boards. Xavier Copeland is also capable of scoring in double figures regularly while Amari Toney and Damorrious Holman can get things going too on the offensive end. Goochland gets some serious production from James Bell and Quincy Snead in addition to Holman’s relentless attacking of the basket. This one should be fun.
Key matchup: Who can block out the noise best. In the last meeting, both teams obviously had some challenges keeping their mind on the game, leading to the strange circumstances down the stretch. Whoever can keep their mental focus and overcome those challenges this time around will get the edge in this one.
The line: Goochland by 1. The Bulldogs are at home and they got a touch of a wakeup call Monday in a loss to Fluvanna.