It’s a moment that’s been building to a crescendo for quite some time. This is Louisa County coach Robert Shelton’s third season leading the program. Last year the Lions put themselves in the conversation as one of the top teams in the Jefferson District. Thanks to a last second 3-pointer from Chris Shelton on Tuesday night, the Lions now have a chance to win at least a share of the Jefferson District after they took down previously unbeaten Albemarle 59-58.
“It was just special,” Chris Shelton said. “I really did this for Louisa. The people that help me everyday gave me confidence. The people came out and watched in a packed gym. I came out and did it for Louisa.”
Getting to that shot was struggle in a game where the Lions raced out in front early only to have the Patriots mount an impressive comeback to set up the wild finish.
“Our guys stayed calm, poised,” Robert Shelton said. “The last play of the game we’ve been practicing all year but haven’t run it (but it’s meant) for situations like this. In practice we probably have hit that shot once out of five. It was a great pass by our quarterback Malik Bell, great pass by CJ Williams and Anthony Nelson had a great screen. Chris did the easy part making the shot.”
The Lions enjoyed a healthy lead for the bulk of the contest but an early surge in the third quarter from the Patriots made the final 10 minutes and change a great back-and-forth exchange between two well-rounded squads.
After trailing 28-19 at the break, the Patriots got rolling with J’Quan Anderson. The Lions defense held the Albemarle senior to just five first half points, but Anderson blew up for 11 third quarter points with six of those coming at the free throw line and then another eight in the fourth including a pair of three pointers to finish with 24 points. With Kaysean Allen helping early on the in third, Albemarle was able to make it 28-25 in the first two minutes of third before tying things at 35-35 with 2:54 left in the frame.
“They had us on the ropes a couple of times,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard. “We kept fighting back and J’Quan Anderson played super. He kept us on his back, he gave us the opportunity to win the game.”
Louisa was able rip of a 6-0 run behind Jarrett Hunter and Shelton and from there and maintain a two-possesion lead until midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing by eight, Albemarle got its first lead of the game since the first quarter on an 11-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer from J’quan Anderson and another three and pair of free throws from Na’il Arnold ot make it 55-52.
Hunter was able to make it a 1-point game with 2:47 to play before both teams slowed the pace of the game down and both teams came up defensive stops. Up 57-56, the Patriots defense got a stop with 9.8 seconds to go. Josh Beidler was able to make it a 2-point lead for Albemarle when he hit the front end of a 1-and-1 but Louisa picked up the rebound on the second.
From there, it was a bit of confusion after an officiating conference when the Lions inbounded the ball. But after that the Lions were able to advance the ball up the court, call timeout and draw up the play for Shelton.
“I just kept calm, we run it everyday,” Chris Shelton said. “It felt just like practice.”
On the play, Malik Bell inbounded to CJ Williams across the court who kicked it to Shelton. The shot was contested but fell through with 1.2 seconds on the clock to make it 59-58. The Lions defense intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass after a timeout to put a bow on the win.
“They made a great play,” Maynard said. “(Even before the shot) they made a great play when we had a foul to give and then they ran Shelton off a screen and he came off on the backside and got it quickly, looked and drained it. That’s one those shots. He makes it and they win. He misses and we win. But a great effort by both teams.”
For Louisa, Shelton finished with a team high 19 points fueled by five three pointers. Jarrett Hunter had 13 points and seven rebounds while Xavier HUnter had nine points. CJ Williams had 10 rebounds and six assists.
Anderson led Albemarle with his 24 points and three steals. Maxx Jarmson finished with 17 with 12 of them coming in the first half. Allen finished with seven points. Arnold had 13 rebounds and four blocks.
“I told my kids I’m so disappointed we had our first loss but also so proud that we fought back and it was a heckuva game,” Maynard said. “I’ll look for Louisa to go a long way in 4A and hope we go a long way in 5A. It was just a good high school basketball game.”
Louisa (16-2) travels to Patrick Henry (Ashland) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Albemarle (18-1) will travel to face Charlottesville on Friday at 7:45 p.m.