By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Typically, when Albemarle and Charlottesville get together in boys’ basketball, the impending matchup is all that both teams and school communities discuss in the days leading up to the rivalry clash.
The usual high volume and energy from both student sections was there throughout Friday night’s contest, but the moments leading up to tipoff were more somber.
Along with memorializing Willie Jenkins, a beloved bus driver who passed away earlier this year with a decorated chair, the gym at Albemarle High School observed a moment of silence to remember the life of Fran Maynard, the mother of Albemarle head coach Greg Maynard.
Tears streamed inside the packed house as the Patriots wrapped an emotional week by paying tribute to a woman that had been a fixture within the Albemarle basketball family since long before the current players were born. The Patriots responded with their best first half of basketball in the young season, and fended off several second-half rallies to outlast the rival Knights, 66-60.
“Coach Maynard is a great role model for us so we kind of played for him and let the game do the talking,” Albemarle junior guard Derrick Jones said. “We didn’t have practice on Wednesday and we had to get ready on an off day. Coach Maynard having to deal with all of that, it’s very tough, so I think we did come out as a team.”
Charlottesville fought back from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to trim the lead to just one midway through the fourth, but Albemarle never relinquished the lead that it built in the game’s first few minutes.
Outside of the Black Knights opening the contest with four free throws due to technical fouls assessed during the pregame warmups, Albemarle (3-1) did little wrong in the first 16 minutes.
A pair of first quarter runs allowed the Patriots to stay ahead for nearly the entire game.
Back-to-back triples by Josh Morse kick-started a 13-0 surge, as the home team outscored Charlottesville 17-5 over a six-minute period.
Jones highlighted the run with a tomahawk slam that brought the neon-clad Albemarle student section to a fever pitch, and Dasaun Taylor followed the dunk with an emphatic three-point play.
Albemarle continued to attack the undersized Black Knights from both inside and out in the second quarter. Six different Patriots touched the score sheet in the second frame, including Morris, who drained the third of his four three-pointers on the night.
Taylor led the balanced effort with 14 points and six assists. Senior Chris Cox nearly recorded a double double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Morse tallied 12 of his 13 points from beyond the arc, and Jones registered 11 points, five assists, and three blocks.
With his team still feeling the effects of replacing five starters from a year ago, Maynard was happy to see contributions coming from across the board.
“That’s the way this team should be,” Maynard said. “We got a lot of guys that can score and handle the ball, rebound, and whatever it takes. Our bench is pretty good too. I was just pleased with the overall effort and the ball distribution.
Morse opened the third quarter with yet another triple to give Albemarle its largest lead of the night, before the Black Knights slowly chipped away at the deficit.
Albemarle appeared poised to head to the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead before Zymir Faulkner reeled off five points in less than 30 seconds to cut the deficit in half.
Trailing by five to start the final eight minutes of play, the Charlottesville backcourt continued to get to the lane and beat the larger Patriot defenders off of the dribble.
A three-point play by Isiah Washington and a pair of free throws by Nic Motley kept the pressure on Albemarle before Faulkner pulled the Knights to within one on a reverse layup.
The excitement on the CHS bench was short-lived however, as Cox answered with a bucket on the other end. Then, Myles Ward, who was experiencing his first taste of the Albemarle-Charlottesville rivalry, answered with a three-point-play, and the Patriots led by two possessions for the remainder of the contest.
“You play Charlottesville for 30 years, this is my 30th year as a coach, and they never back off,” Maynard said. “They’ve got tough, hard-nosed kids, they give it everything that they have… We knew they were going to make a run.”
Washington led Charlottesville with 15 points. Faulkner scored all 12 of his points in the second half, and Tayveyon Brown chipped in 11.
Charlottesville will host Powhatan on Tuesday, while the Patriots will travel to face the Indians on Monday. Albemarle will play three games next week, meaning that the Patriots will have limited practice time once again, but for an entirely different reason this time around.
The Jefferson District grind will be difficult, but after having undergone the previous seven days, Maynard feels that his team is up for anything.
“This has been such a tough week on me and coach [Drew Maynard] to even hold a practice with funerals and everything else for my mother. I’m just proud of the way they played,” Maynard said.