On Senior Night at Charlottesville, the Knights leveraged hot perimeter shooting to race out to a double-digit first quarter lead. Then, as a trio of guards drew increased defensive attention, two upperclassman forwards took advantage of low-post opportunities, consistently thwarting any threat of a rally by visiting Orange County. With a 67-54 victory, the Knights solidified their position to host a quarterfinal when the Jefferson District Tournament begins on Friday night.
“We did much better tonight as far as scoring a little bit on the inside,” said CHS coach Mitch Minor. “To have some success down the road, we’ve got to continue to do that.”
The Hornets connected on just three treys in the game. Charlottesville guard Khishon Gray matched that total in the first quarter.
“[CHS] has a couple of guards who are real tough; they do a pretty good job of knocking down threes if you don’t close out hard enough,” said Orange coach Adam Utz. “Charlottesville plays tough and they’re in your grill the entire game. We struggled behind the arc; I think we were 3-for-12 or 13, and they were able to hit seven. If we get a couple shots to fall, game’s a little different.”
While the Hornets were cold from outside, senior Kyrie Carter found success in the paint to lead the visitors with seven first-quarter points. He, along with fellow senior Brandon Franklin and junior Jaylen Alexander, drew frequent whistles; a few minutes before halftime, CHS found itself on the bad end of a 7-1 foul disparity.
“I went to my bench early, and I think that may have been the difference late,” Minor said, as first half bench scoring favored the Knights by an 8-2 margin. “I thought [Orange] did a good job on the boards. We were a little late sometimes and they got some second and third attempts. We need more people rebounding so we can get the ball first and push it.”
After a 23-point first quarter, the Knights cooled and posted only 15 in the second. Still, they held a 38-24 halftime lead. The Hornets pulled within 11 with 3:30 remaining in the third, but CHS closed the frame with a 9-4 run to coast into the fourth.
With the margin still at 14 after a pair of free throws, Orange deployed a full-court press as the clock ticked under seven minutes to play. The Knights’ guards had little trouble advancing into the frontcourt, where the offense dialed down to its most deliberate pace yet.
“It may have looked like a stall, but it really wasn’t,” Minor said. “We were very patient. We took some time off the clock and scored some easy layups.”
Junior Isaiah Washington and senior Lewis Tate combined for nine points down the stretch and finished the night with 15 and 10, respectively. Gray joined them in double-figures with 14 points. Junior guard Jake Bowling finished with 8 points, matched by Zymir Faulkner off the bench.
Four Hornets finished in double figures, with Carter and Franklin leading the way with 12 each. Alexander and sophomore guard Siboniso Mthethwa both added 10.
Before an expected rematch in the quarterfinals on Friday, both squads face tough contests tomorrow. CHS wraps up at regular-season champion Louisa, while Orange hosts Albemarle for Senior Night.