By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
With so many defensive alignments in her playbook, Albemarle girls’ basketball head coach Rachel Proudfoot is never afraid to completely shift her team’s strategy on a dime. That is exactly what Proudfoot’s Patriots did in Friday’s rubber match with crosstown rival, Charlottesville.
The Black Knights shot 100 percent from the field in the game’s first few minutes, while picking apart Albemarle’s zone. But as soon as Proudfoot switched from zone to man-to-man defense, the visitors went cold.
Albemarle limited Charlottesville to just one field goal between the second and third quarters, and held off a late charge to walk away with a 41-37 win on its home floor.
Points were hard to come by for both teams, particularly the Knights, after such a hot start. La’Kasia Calloway knocked down two of Charlottesville’s three outside shots in the first three minutes, as Charlottesville started the game 5-for-5 from the field.
Five straight points from T.C. Younger lifted the Knights to an early 15-10 lead, as Charlottesville found several holes in the Albemarle zone. The excitement was short-lived on the Charlottesville bench, however, as CHS went over seven minutes without a bucket, and then waited another eight-minutes-plus to get its next one.
Albemarle’s suffocating man-to-man defense made life miserable for the Knights, as the visitors often made trips down the floor without getting off a quality shot.
“We switched out from going zone to go man because when we were in zone, we weren’t getting out on the shooters quick enough or we weren’t in very good help defense, but when we were in man, we were stopping them from getting shots,” Albemarle senior MarQuelah Wilson said. “We were getting better at sliding our feet and just keeping our hands up.”
Wilson led the Patriots with 13 points on the night.
The triumph gave Albemarle a regular season series win over the Knights for 2019-2020.
Albemarle already owned a victory over Charlottesville, but that win came in the Championship Game of the Holiday tournament, and had no bearing on the district race.
The lone defat to CHS came on December 20, and the Patriots found themselves in a near déjà vu situation on Friday.
In the December loss, Albemarle led by a point in the final seconds, and needed only to inbound the ball cleanly to win. Instead, the Knights stole in the key inbound pass and scored a layup to escape with a one-point win.
This time around, the Patriots got the ball in the hands of veteran guard, Jamie Radenmacher, and Proudfoot rightly breathed a sigh of relief. The senior knocked down a pair of free throws to put her team ahead by two possessions, and effectively slam the door on the Knights.
The two crucial foul shots represented only Radenmacher’s third and fourth points of the night.
Unlike the last district battle with the Knights that saw Albemarle lose three key players late in the game to foul trouble, Proudfoot was able to keep her most trusted girls on the floor late, which allowed the Patriots to finish the job.
“With their team, they were more aggressive last game trying to beat us off the dribble, and we adjusted well to that and not fouling a lot,” Proudfoot said. “We had three players with three or more fouls, but we didn’t foul out this time, which was nice.”
The two teams traded free throws for much of the second quarter, but Albemarle finally took control of the contest midway through the third frame. Wilson bookended an 11-2 AHS run to give the Patriots their largest lead at 10 points early in te final quarter. Carmella Jackson finally took the lid off for the Knights in the opening minute of the fourth stanza with a put-back layup.
Jackson’s bucket represented Charlottesville’s first field goal of the second half. The explosive guard scored six of her seven points in the fourth quarter, as the Black Knights slowly climbed back into the game.
After scoring a career-high 28 points against Louisa the week prior, junior Andrea Lefkowtiz had a quiet night against the Patriots, until the closing minutes. Lefkowtiz muscled her way to a crucial layup with 1:19 remaining to pull the visitors to within three.
Charlottesville had several chances, down by one and two, respectively in the final minute, but a pair of empty possessions and some key misses from the free throw line doomed the Knights’ comeback attempt. Jackson led all scorers with 16 points.
Friday’s result moved the Patriots (14-5) into a half-a-game lead over CHS in the win column atop the Jefferson District standings.
Wilson, and her fellow seniors have had mixed results against Charlottesville throughout their careers. With Friday’s game being the last scheduled meeting between the two rivals, Wilson was happy to potentially end her career against CHS on a high note.
“It feels so good,” Wilson said. The first time, losing to [Charlottesville] by one was devastating… Beating them in a close game tonight was great and just being able to have fun in this rivalry game is really amazing.”