Western Albemarle sophomore Elisabeth Coffman picked up a fourth foul in the fourth quarter and quite suddenly, Warriors’ coach Kris Wright had a decision to make about his top ballhandler.
“She handles the ball so much for us, do you want to try and steal a little bit (of time and sit her down) or keep her in there,” Wright said. “There’s no right or wrong answer, I just kind of went with it to see how she would handle it.”
Coffman handled it nearly perfectly, playing smart all the way down the stretch where she went 8-for-10 at the line, scoring half of her 16 points in the Warriors’ 50-38 win over Monticello.
“I definitely had to lay back on defense a lot and just relied more on my teammates and made sure I wasn’t in position to foul,” Coffman said. “They always pull their weight, it’s great.”
With Eleri Hayden posting another strong night in the paint with 20 points — all from the floor — Western had enough firepower to hold off Monticello. They had to shake off a determined Mustangs squad though led by Kirstena Lilley’s 18 points. Monticello battled back after going down 10 in the first quarter, a theme this week for Monticello, who also went down big early to Louisa before clawing its way back into contention.
Lilley buried a couple of threes though and Camille Blaine scored nine to help bolster Monticello’s effort and Dasha Kinlaw finished with seven points on the night.
By halftime, Western led by just two, 20-18, though they extended that back to a seven-point advantage during the third quarter. Finishing has been something of an issue for Western this year, but they were steady this time with Coffman knocking down free throws and an old fashioned 3-point play by Mary Burch giving the Warriors all the punch they needed to pull away.
“Any time it’s a rivalry game, cross-county, it’s always a good win, but for us to win in a way that we’ve struggled with is huge,” Wright said. “You can build from that.”
It’s a big confidence boost heading into a long break as the Warriors won’t play again until the post-Christmas Holiday tournament. For Coffman, it felt like, potentially a big moment.
“We’ve stepped forward and we’re getting a lot better,” Coffman said. “Especially by the end (of the season) we’ll definitely be a whole new team that’s much sharper and much better. This was a good stepping stone.”
That clutch play down the stretch may have been a big stepping stone for Coffman herself.
“It’s really good to see because she doesn’t have a ceiling I don’t think so as she grows and learns certain little nuances about being a point guard, it shows up in things like not fouling when you’re not supposed to foul,” Wright said. “To see that in a key situation in a rivalry game is encouraging.”
Coffman finished with five steals and four assists while Hayden had six steals and five rebounds. Ava Coles chipped in three rebounds and three steals. Deja Newton-Grant was solid on the glass with six rebounds and Shannon Moore had five boards.
Monticello will travel to take on Fluvanna County next week.