Albemarle’s frustrating performance a little more than a week ago against Western was still eating away at the Patriots.
“That’s been preached to them since then — we can’t be embarrassed like we were in that game and they were determined not to let that happen tonight,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard.
With a combination of Christopher Cox exploding on offense and Myles Ward providing a lock down defensive effort, Albemarle didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed, beating the Warriors 53-41 in the Jefferson District semifinals Monday night.
The Patriots will face Louisa in Mineral Tuesday night with the JD title on the line.
Cox couldn’t play in that frustrating last game with Western Albemarle when the Type 2 diabetic’s blood sugar got too low.
“It just went too low, it happens sometimes depending on what I eat and how I manage it,” Cox said. “You just never know sometimes.”
That gave him an added sense of motivation and despite, according to him, not having his jumpshot going, Cox poured in 19 points highlighted by a one-handed stickback in the second half and also grabbed seven boards.
“I was furious from that last game, I wasn’t going to lose,” Cox said. “We all worked much harder this time.”
Cox’s ability to finish inside was just what Albemarle was missing in its 26-point outing against Western.
“He’s playing so hard and he means an awful lot to us,” Maynard said. “If we keep him healthy and playing like he is then we’re a much, much better team. I’m really proud of the way he’s playing on both ends of the court.”
Meanwhile, Myles Ward seemed to take the game over in stretches despite scoring just four points because he was so locked in defensively. Ward was assigned to mark Western’s leading scorer Tommy Mangrum, who finished the night without a bucket.
“He took that as a personal challenge — he asked me at halftime ‘has he scored yet, has he scored?’,” Maynard said. “We wanted to play harder than them and play better defense because that’s kind of their trademark and we figured if we could do the things that they do a little bit better than them we’d come out on top.”
While at St. Anne’s-Belfield the last couple of years, Ward often got tasked with guarding a player he surrendered a lot of height to in the Prep League, including former Trinity Episcopal star Armando Bacot, a UNC commit who checks in at 6-11, so Ward is no stranger to drawing tough defensive assignments. He managed to come up with four rebounds, four steals, four assists and two blocks while clamping down on Mangrum.
“Every time I feel like I’m not doing as well on offense, I try to pick my game up somewhere else to help the team,” Ward said. “Defense has always been my primary calling. I didn’t even think twice about scoring.”
Derrick Jones, Jr. finished with 10 points, four rebounds and four steals including a second half flush on a spinning fastbreak feed from Cam Brown. Dasaun Taylor had nine points from the point guard spot.
Western, for its part, couldn’t get on track and get locked in like they were against the Patriots last time they squared off, struggling for the second time this year on the road against Albemarle. The home team won all three meetings between the two rivals.
“I thought we’d grown way past that but you’ve got to give them credit, they got after it and played really hard,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We panicked and I don’t even really know where that comes from.”
Riley Prichard finished with 13 points on the night and Gabe Nafzinger managed nine but the Warriors couldn’t overcome Mangrum’s scoreless night on the offensive end despite holding the Patriots to just 51.
Western will focus on the Region 3C tournament now, they’ll host a first round game Friday night.