It has been a long, long wait for Louisa County boys basketball to hoist another district tournament trophy as champions like the Lions did Tuesday night after a 48-46 win over Albemarle.
Since 1995, to be exact.
And it took creating something bigger than a team to do it. It took creating a family to get them there.
“We’re a family here, we push each other every day to get to this moment, I can’t say how blessed I am to be with these guys,” said Louisa County senior Chris Shelton. “We’ve been going since middle school and I’d do anything for these guys.”
The Lions managed to withstand a surge by Albemarle in the third quarter, with the Patriots tying the game at 33-33 late in the third. The teams traded buckets and spurts from there until Xavien Hunter struck with a drive into the lane, finishing strong while drawing the foul. He knocked down the free throw and Louisa led 46-42 with 2:15 to play.
“We spread out on offense and I saw he was playing off me and he thought he had me and I just went past him and scored,” Hunter said. “That was a great moment. It was a close game and coach said he needed a bucket and I got it.”
The Lions knew they’d need Hunter to come up big down the stretch despite the fact that he was held without a field goal in the first half and had only scored four points ahead of his critical drive. With Shelton and Jarett Hunter, Louisa has a wealth of options in the clutch and Xavien Hunter is built for those moments.
“We told him at halftime to keep attacking, we need him to do that,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton. “He didn’t get discouraged and I’ve said it before, he’s one of the toughest kids in school so I knew he was mentally tough enough to make that play.”
With Louisa up 48-46 with about 20 seconds to play, Albemarle had the ball and got a pair of chances with the help of a Myles Ward offensive rebound, but both the drive before Ward’s board and the three that followed didn’t fall, allowing Louisa to pick up the win and the sought-after trophy. Louisa ended its regular season district championship drought that stretched back to 1994 a year ago (coach Robert Shelton’s own senior year) but Albemarle got a huge performance from J’Quan Anderson last year to dash Louisa’s hopes of taking both titles.
This time, Louisa found a way to hang on.
“It didn’t start this game or this year, these kids have been playing together for a long time, since middle school,” Robert Shelton said. “They’ve played against each other, they’ve played with each other. We’ve had our ups and downs as a program and as a team and they overcame that adversity and I’m proud of them, they worked hard for this moment and they deserve this moment.”
With Louisa struggling from beyond the arc — they didn’t knock down a three all night — Jarett Hunter played a big role in keeping the Lions in it with an array of drives into the lane to draw fouls. He made eight of nine free throw attempts while scoring 14 points. Chris Shelton scored 12, including six in the first quarter to stake the Lions to an 11-4 lead. Isaac Haywood chipped in nine points, going 3-for-4 at the line while Shylek Washington had six points. Mark Carter was solid on the boards, coming up with rebounds at several critical junctures.
Albemarle countered with 14 points from Ward, another 13 from Derrick Jones, Jr. and 10 from Chris Cox.
Albemarle will host Orange County Friday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Region 5D tournament while Louisa gets a break before starting Region 4B play next week.