It had been been a long time coming for Western Albemarle girls basketball.
Last season, Western fell a little bit short in its quest for a Jefferson District tournament title, falling in a hard-fought game to Louisa on a neutral floor at Albemarle High School.
One year later, Western found itself in the same position, except the opponent was Charlottesville and this game took place on the Warriors’ home floor. The result was different, too — Western pulled away after a tight first quarter, shutting down the Black Knights’ offense en route to a 51-38 victory, giving the Warriors what’s believed to be their first Jefferson District tournament crown since 1997, a 20-year span that has included several regular season titles and a series of near misses.
Sydney Sherman poured in 17 points and Elisabeth Coffman added 11, while the Warriors’ defense held Charlottesville without a basket for a stretch of nearly seven minutes between the first two quarters. Coffman had a jumper and then a three-pointer, and Mady Starsia’s old-fashioned three-point play capped the burst to help Western to an 18-12 lead at the break.
“Charlottesville came out hard, they played great defense,” Sherman said. “I think we were trusting of our teammates, and we were unselfish, moving the ball well and counting on each other to make shots.”
Charlottesville didn’t help themselves at the line–they misfired on all five of their first-half foul shot attempted and finished just 5-for-19 from the line. They didn’t make a free throw until T.C. Younger split a pair with 1:57 to go in the third, which trimmed a WAHS lead that had been in double digits for much of the third quarter down to eight.
“We knew how good [Western] is, against a team that’s so solid and as well-coached as they are, if you don’t finish layups, if you don’t make shots, if you don’t communicate on defense, Western makes you pay,” Charlottesville coach Jim Daly said. “They earned the district championship. They’re very good at what they do. Hats off to them.”
Western (19-6) always had an answer in the second half. Anna O’Shea had a pair of three-pointers, one in each quarter, to counter Charlottesville’s baskets and Sherman’s and-one with 5:49 to play pushed the lead back to 39-27 right after Charlottesville failed to capitalize on a three-point opportunity of their own, and the Black Knights got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
“All four times this season we’ve been fortunate to play in the lead against Charlottesville,” Western coach Kris Wright said. “And every time, they’ve made a run at us. We knew it was coming, and we knew we needed to stay assertive and come up with baskets to hold them off.”
With the win, Western finishes the season with a 3-1 record against CHS.
“All four times, it’s been a battle,” Wright said. “Jim coaches them really well, the teams know each other really well, so we know it really comes down to ‘Can we be ourselves against a team that’s really good?'”
Younger led Charlottesville (19-5) nine points, all in the second half, while Kaniya Key had eight and Jess Antwi six for the Black Knights, who will host a first-round game Friday night in the first round of regional competition.
Western, meanwhile, gets a familiar foe in the first round of its regional tournament — they’ll host Fluvanna Monday night at 6:00.