Albemarle’s boys basketball team knew they were going to need everybody in the rotation if they were going to find a way to knock off a physical Louisa County squad in Tuesday’s Jefferson District tournament championship game.
And everybody, obviously, includes Kaysean Allen.
“Kaysean came into halftime with his head down and we just tried to pick him up,” said Albemarle senior Na’il Arnold. “We (were) losing focus and putting the blame on each other and playing one-on-one basketball but we just started playing with each other and that’s how we got the job done.”
Allen helped Albemarle survive the Lions as the Patriots avenged the squad’s lone loss of the season just 15 days ago with a 60-54 victory and locked up their second-straight district tournament crown. To do it they had to fight off a Louisa team that won a share of the regular season district crown for the first time since 1994 and was clearly hungry for a tournament title.
After a quiet first three quarters, Allen scored six of his eight total points in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, including a finish down the baseline and a fastbreak score off a steal. Along with some hard-nosed defense and an explosive stat-sheet stuffing outing from J’Quan Anderson, that was enough to push the Patriots past Louisa. Anderson scored 25 points, pulled down six rebounds and nabbed four steals.
The Lions appeared to have scored the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds to play when a Jarrett Hunter drive down the right side of the lane ended with a bucket and the foul with the chance to go ahead 57-56 on a made free throw. But the officials waved off the basket and said the foul was on the floor, leaving Hunter with just a one-and-one at the line down 56-54. The bucket and the foul would’ve been a perfect capper for Hunter who scored 16 points and was a shot-maker all night for the Lions, knocking down a couple of stepback jumpers off the dribble.
“That’s the Jarrett we are used to and accustomed to, he’s been playing injured most of the year so I think you’re seeing him at 100 percent,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton. “He’s big for us, he makes us go.”
Hunter missed the front end, and more confusion ensued after an official blew the whistle after the rebound thinking he was shooting two. Albemarle was eventually properly awarded the ball. Louisa fouled Anderson on the inbounds following a timeout. Anderson went 5-for-6 at the free throw line, including the final four points of the night as Albemarle held on.
“We didn’t back down any, we played with a lot of heart,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard. “They’re big, strong guys and it was very, very physical but I told them ‘this will get you prepared for the postseason that’s the way it is.”
Albemarle had to battle past a size disadvantage down low as Arnold contended with Brandon Smith and C.J. Williams. The Lions only got four points out of their post players, with Arnold managing to limit what they did in the paint.
“In my mind I’m 6-foot-7 so anybody you bring in that’s taller than me I’m just going to try and attack them every single chance I get,” Arnold said.
Louisa was equally efficient on defense in the post as the fact that it was the teams’ third time clashing on the court showed. Each team was in tune with what the other wanted to do, and Anderson simply found a way to make a few more shots.
The game lacked the truly dramatic finish that late January’s meeting that ended with Louisa’s Chris Shelton hitting a 3-pointer for the game-winner because Hunter’s shot was waved off. Still, it had all the hallmarks of a game with stakes, which should prepare both squads for the upcoming region tournaments.
“Of course you want to come out on top, on the other side of those games but you can learn a lot from it,” Robert Shelton said. “We’ve just got to get better, use that as a learning experience. This is the type of atmosphere we plan to play in in regionals.”
Cartier Key finished with 11 points for the Patriots while Arnold had nine points, six rebounds and four steals. Allen chipped in four rebounds to go with his eight points.
Malik Bell had 14 points for the Lions while Chris Shelton scored 12. Anthony Nelson knocked down huge fourth quarter 3-pointer that immediately answered one by Anderson on the other end.
Both teams will start region play next week, the Lions in Class 4, Region B and the Patriots in Class 5, Region D. Albemarle will face William Fleming or Orange County Wednesday.