By Ben Sheridan / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
If there’s one thing that the Charlottesville boys basketball team has really struggled with this season, it’s starting strong.
With some of their games, they couldn’t find the way to get things going on the right note early.
That wasn’t a problem Monday night against Louisa County in the Jefferson District semifinals.
“I thought we came out and played with better intensity defensively and we scored, and we were patient when we scored and I think that was the difference,” said Charlottesville coach Mitch Minor.
The strong start was huge as the Black Knights were able to carry a lead for most of the game, with clutch plays at the right time being the difference in a 71-69 Jefferson District semifinal win Just six days after Charlottesville fell to the Lions in the regular season, a buzzer-beating putback from senior Isaiah Washington was enough to spark the Black Knights to a win.
The Black Knights flipped a switch about halfway through the first quarter. They then proceeded to go on a 12-0 run that really opened up the game, sparked by lockdown defensive effort while the Black Knights scored at will. Christian Stewart played a large role in the early offense, putting up eight of his 16 points in the quarter. That run helped give the Black Knights a 20-10 lead going to the second.
In the second quarter, the Black Knights’ offense was still able to find success, mostly through Zymir Faulkner’s seven points. He ended the night scoring 12 points. But the second quarter belonged to the Lions, as they came up with a late 7-0 run to claw their way back into the matchup. One of the catalysts for the offense was Isaac Haywood who scored 8 of his 18 points in the second. Then a buzzer-beating three from Louisa’s Buck Hunter cut the Charlottesville lead to 35-32 at the half.
Louisa kept it up in the third, closing the gap even more by scoring 19 points in the quarter. Haywood led with 10, while Buck Hunter had 5 and Jarrett Hunter had 4. Jarett finished with 12 points and Buck led the Lions with 21. The Black Knights however also were able to keep clicking offensively, and held on to a 53-51 lead going into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter, it seemed like Charlottesville was about to put the game away, storming out to a 65-53 lead in the fourth with Isaiah Washington scoring their first eight points. Washington also led the Black Knights in scoring with 21 points.
However, the Lions wouldn’t go down quietly, nailing tough 3 after tough 3, and eventually tied the game at 69-69 with 24.2 seconds left.
“We were scared, but we kept our focus, we just needed to slow the pace down and play basketball,” said Charlottesville’s Washington.
For the last 24.2 seconds, that’s what the Black Knights did, while also getting multiple offensive rebounds before Washington himself came up with the biggest moment of the night.
“I see Zymir miss the first one, but he got the rebound and I thought he might make the second one but missed it, got the rebound then I knew the next one wasn’t going in because it went over the rim,” said Washington. “So I said I’m going to get over here, and I’m going to jump and catch it and try to throw it back in, and luckily it went in, and I just want to thank God for that, that was all God there.”
Washington was able to corral one final rebound and connect on the putback at the buzzer to seal the victory for Charlottesville.
With the win, the Black Knights earn a trip to Albemarle to compete for the Jefferson District boys championship Tuesday night.