As threes rained down in the first quarter and energized a strong contingent of Louisa fans, led by a neon safety vest-clad section of Loonies, Region 4A runner-up Churchland might have wondered if they could have saved 40 miles and played Friday night’s state quarterfinal at The Den in Mineral.
“This was a pretty good environment; it was like a home game for us,” said Louisa junior Jarett Hunter. “We played the same way we do at home, kept the same intensity on defense, and we were able to come out with a win.”
The green-and-gold faithful can proceed to planning their state semifinal road trip, as the Lions dispatched the Truckers by a final of 80-58.
For Louisa County coach Robert Shelton, and perhaps some parents watching from the two-story steep sideline bleachers, the venue raised echoes of old (pre-1998) district showdowns with Culpeper.
“We were glad to get this game here, the old Battlefield for us,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton. “When we came through the Town of Culpeper, it brought back some memories. Walking into this gym was kind of surreal. I think a few of these guys played here in middle school, so they were kind of familiar. It was big that Culpeper allowed us to play here. Our fans were great and the community came out and supported us.”
Louisa guard Chris Shelton likely wishes he could have played a few more games in the facility. The senior led all scorers with 31 points and helped the Lions open an early double-digit lead with a barrage of five first quarter treys.
“I just told myself, ‘come out and be aggressive,’” said Chris Shelton, who connected on eight threes for the game. “Jarett does a great job of finding me. When we get rebounds and the big guys don’t have anything, they look out [to me].”
After Churchland called a 30-second timeout trailing 14-6 with 1:58 left in the opening quarter, Shelton sparked a surge. The Truckers missed a dunk on their possession out of the timeout, and Shelton answered with a three. He sank two more before the quarter ended, putting Louisa up 15.
The scoring run continued over the first two minutes of the second, ultimately reaching 15-2 in the Lions’ favor. The Truckers trimmed the margin from 21 to 15 thanks to a couple of treys from senior guard Shareef Bynum and a transition dunk from Tywon McKenzie. Thanks to more outside buckets from Shelton, Xavien Hunter, and sophomore Mahlik Munnerlyn off the bench, Louisa did not waiver and held a commanding 42-23 lead at the break.
“When they take away one thing, the other guys do a good job of attacking and being aggressive,” said Robert Shelton, as his squad connected on 11 threes in the first half. “I think that’s kind of been our story. When we’re successful, things are going through Chris and Jarett, and at times we go through Buck. Those guys play well together and play off of each other, so when [Chris] got it rolling, the others followed suit.”
The third quarter saw a pair of 11-6 stretches for Louisa sandwiched around a Churchland timeout, stretching the margin to 29 at 64-35. In a sign of improvement from the fourth quarter turnover-fest against Hanover one week prior, the Lions handled the Truckers’ full-court press.
“We watched film, saw where we made mistakes, and today we were able to correct those,” said Robert Shelton. “We looked up and got the ball past the first level, got the ball to the middle. I think the ball moved around a lot better, and we were able to capitalize and score off of that. The best recipe against somebody who’s pressing you is to score on them.”
Churchland got no closer than 20 down the stretch. McKenzie and junior forward Anthony Davis each finished with 12 points to lead the Truckers.
After Shelton’s explosive effort , Xavien Hunter finished with 16 for Louisa. Shylek Washington was again huge around the glass and just missed a double-double with 9 points. Jarett Hunter and Munnerlyn each added 8.
Lake Taylor awaits Louisa in a Class 4 semifinal Tuesday.