Western Albemarle’s Josh Coffman is known as a sharpshooter. But he’s been doing a lot more than that for the Warriors this season.
“Josh has been our defensive stopper all season, he’s shut down some really great scorers,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “He’s been amazing to me, one of the best I’ve ever had at that.”
Thursday against St. Anne’s-Belfield Coffman also moved to playing more at the point as part of a strategic shift for the Warriors, then came up big defensively in the clutch with a block on a corner 3-pointer that could’ve cut Western’s lead to one. His efforts all over the floor helped the Warriors hold off STAB for a 58-53 victory in the Daily Progress Holiday Tournament.
“I know he’s one of the best shooters on that team and when he’s coming off the screen with the game at that point I knew they needed a three,” Coffman said. “Coach always tells us to be the second to jump, so I was the second to jump and I just tipped the ball.”
Western had to grit its way to the victory, playing without starter Chris McGahren during much of the second half after the Warriors’ guard got hurt in collision. Playing three games in three days also took its toll on a Western team still trying to develop more depth, though a strong outing from Jed Strickland helped offset those challenges underneath as he posted 11 points, eight of them after the break.
The Warriors jumped out to a 12-0 lead to start the game, putting STAB in a big hole out of the gate.
“We’ve had about three or four of those where we get up eight or nine and this was 12 and then we give it right back,” Maynard said. “We’ve got to stop doing that part of it.”
Part of that early surge came because Western shifted Coffman to the point to help the Warriors run some action in their offense for regular point guard Ryan Ingram at shooting guard, an effort to take advantage of the hot hand Ingram has had of late. Ingram finished with 17 points.
“All year coach has told me I’ve got to play the backup point guard so I’ve slowly become more comfortable with that,” Coffman said.
STAB meanwhile, countered that early 12-0 jump by the Warriors, recovering quickly to trail only 19-12 at the end of the first thanks in part to a Dalton Taylor three during the counterpunch. Jayden Nixon and Mesiah Woods each had 15 points. With the game tight late, Woods stepped up, hitting two fourth quarter 3-pointers, one of which pulled the Saints within two baskets. That was a big learning experience for a team that replaced a lot of key parts while trying to rebuild around the trio of returners Matt Palumbo, Nixon and Nic Kent.
“I was able to get some younger guys off the bench a lot of minutes so it was a good opportunity for me to see that,” said STAB coach Brian Kent. “Some of those younger guys responded.”
The Saints handled those situations down the stretch pretty well, with Woods making some big shots and the defense coming up with a few stops to keep within striking distance. STAB simply couldn’t get over the hump as Ingram went 5-for-6 at the free throw line in the fourth.
“We’ve just got to be smarter in those situations,” Kent said. “In the third quarter we got three stops to start and gave up three offensive rebounds and it was tough.”
Western gets a four-day break before jumping back into Jefferson District play at home Tuesday against Louisa County. The Saints get an eight-day rest until taking on Christchurch on the road Friday.