By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Long before Friday night’s 5A State Quarterfinal between Albemarle and Thomas Edison tipped off, both teams were involved in an intense waiting game that lasted nearly all day.
After not knowing if they would play until the afternoon, the Patriots sat around for nearly three hours at the host site, Monticello High School, until their opponents even arrived on campus.
That is because the Eagles sat in traffic on a snarled I-64, and did not walk into the Monticello gym until after 8 p.m., despite leaving school grounds shortly after 1:15 p.m.
After having spent the bulk of the day traveling and playing sparingly due to foul trouble for most of the game, however, Edison point guard Jared Clawson decided that he was tired of waiting.
Clawson exploded for 17 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and engineered a furious offensive surge to turn the tide in favor of the Eagles. Edison, behind two big fourth-quarter runs, outscored the Patriots 29-15 in the final eight minutes to walk away with a 64-56 triumph.
The loss brings the Patriots’ (26-2) season to a close just three wins shy of the program’s first state championship.
Free throw shooting was huge for Thomas Edison, as the Eagles went 32-46 from the charity stripe in the win.
After building a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, its largest of the game, Albemarle appeared to be on its way to the state final four for the third consecutive winter.
That is until an untimely technical foul provided Clawson and the Eagles with the small window that they needed to claw back into the game.
Clawson converted both technical free throws to jump-start his epic fourth quarter for the visitors, and Edison slowly chipped away at the Albemarle lead.
With the bench roaring after every made bucket down the stretch, the Eagles methodically ripped off a 16-5 run over the next three minutes, to eventually grab just its third lead of the game with 3:57 remaining.
Albemarle briefly pulled ahead on the ensuing possession with a running layup from J’Quan Anderson, but a timely three by Kendrick Clawson on the other end gave Edison the lead for good and the Eagles outscored the Patriots 11-2 from then on.
“I think the difference was, after that technical, it was like a 15-point swing or something, and that’s kind of where the game turned,” Edison coach Terry Henderson said. “Albemarle is a hell of a team. They’re just so tough, they keep coming, and they pound you inside…. Their guards, their wing players are so athletic, we were just fortunate tonight… I think we did a good job shooting from the line.”
Albemarle trailed for just 13 seconds of game time prior to the contested three-pointer by Shurland Williams that gave the Eagles a one-point lead with 3:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Anderson, who led all scorers with 21 points, reeled off seven of them in the first four minutes of the third quarter, to put Albemarle in control of what was a seesaw battle until then.
After playing with nearly their entire lineup in foul trouble for the first half, the Patriots were the aggressors early in the second half and arrived at the bonus before the end of the third frame.
Chris Cox, who provided some huge minutes off of the bench with Na’il Arnold and Kaysean Allen in early foul trouble, tallied eight of his ten points in the second half, including the layup that gave AHS its largest lead of the game at 45-35.
The momentum swung the Eagles’ way following the technical foul, but Maxx Jarmon briefly weathered the storm with a running layup, to put the Patriots ahead by nine on the ensuing possession.
Unfortunately for Albemarle, points would be tough to come by for the remainder of the contest. As the foul total began to even out and Edison heated up from the outside, the Patriots could not channel their fourth-quarter prowess that they had displayed all season in a number of close wins.
After going scoreless for over two minutes of play, Cox finally put an end to the offensive woes with 23 seconds left in the game, but by then Edison had built a lead that it would not relinquish.
“We didn’t get the job done in the fourth quarter tonight. [Thomas Edison] made big plays, and we didn’t make big plays,” Albemarle head coach Greg Maynard said. “Give Edison credit, they really scrapped and came up with some big baskets and some defensive stops in the fourth, that most of the year, we were the ones doing that to other teams, but tonight wasn’t our night.”
The loss marks the end of the illustrious careers of the senior-laiden Albemarle starting five made up of Anderson, Jarmon, Arnold, Allen, and point guard Cartier Key.
Over the past three years, the dynamic quintet won 77 games, three Jefferson District regular season championships, two JD tournament titles, two former Conference 16 crowns, and claimed the school’s first-ever region championship this season.
Despite having to replace two of the program’s all-time greats in Austin Katstra and Jake Hahn prior to the 2017-18 season, Patriots rose to the challenge this year.
After each individual senior emerged from the locker room following the loss, each of them received a well-deserved applause from the large Albemarle contingent in attendance, as well as a hug from their proud head coach.
“If you look at the last three years, a lot of these guys have been on varsity since they were sophomores, we won 24, 27, and 26 games. Not too many high school basketball players can say that in the last three years of their career,” Maynard said. “They’ve meant an awful lot to me, they’ve meant an awful lot to our program and our school, and they’re just good young men.”