By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Sixty days can seem like an eternity for a high school basketball team, but Albemarle head coach Greg Maynard regularly remind his team what took place on December 15, 2017.
Nearly two months ago to the day, the Patriots built a 20-point lead on rival on Western Albemarle, only to watch the Warriors erase the deficit in the fourth quarter, and make the game almost too close for comfort in the end.
On Monday night, against the same Western squad in the Jefferson District semifinals, Albemarle nearly found itself in a similar situation.
Leading by 20 points midway through the third quarter, the Warriors methodically clawed back to within six, which gave many in the home crowd a worried sense of deja vu
This time around, however, the Patriots (22-1) heeded their coach’s warnings, and never allowed Western Albemarle to truly make things interesting. Albemarle, behind 19 points by J’Quan Anderson and some clutch play from its bench, led wire to wire en route to a 61-48 triumph.
The victory marks the Patriots’ first clean sweep over Western since joining the Jefferson District in the 2013-14 school year.
Per usual, Anderson was Albemarle’s leading scorer, but like many of his senior teammates, the multi-sport athlete found himself in foul trouble in the second half.
With the veterans plagued with foul issues, Maynard leaned heavily on reserves Derrick Jones and Chris Cox to pick up the slack.
Jones and Cox answered the bell with 10 points a piece, and a number of big buckets in the fourth quarter in the heart of Western Albemarle’s run. Jones, a sophomore guard, proved to be a deadly three-point shooter and a reliable ball handler when called upon.
Meanwhile, Cox, who registered eight of his 10 points in the second half, made a number of hustle plays, and more than compensated for the Pats’ size disadvantage in the post.
The Warriors pulled to within single digits following a pair of free throws by Teo Rampini, before Jones and Cox executed a beautiful two-man-game, with the latter finishing off the play with a layup. Then, when the Western cut the margin to six points with less than three minutes to play, Cox again delivered a timely bucket, which helped jump start a final run to put the Warriors away for good.
“When your starters are in foul trouble, you got to get some play out of the bench,” Greg Maynard said. “Jones did a good job of giving us some big baskets, and Cox really played well with some nice inside moves and finishes when we beat their press.”
Anderson, for his part, appreciated the jolt that the pair gave the Patriots off the bench.
“[Jones and Cox] are capable of a lot of things… We’re thankful to have them on our team,” Anderson said. “They have a lot to offer and a lot to give to this school for a couple of years.”
Anderson set the tone for a relentless Albemarle defense that forced 21 Western turnovers on the night.
Like the first meeting in Crozet, AHS looked to be headed for an easy win in the second half. A pair of Jones three-pointers bookended a 15-4 run between the second and third quarters, which gave the home team a 20-point lead.
With Western Albemarle struggling mightily from the charity stripe, it looked as though it would be an uneventful final eight minutes and change.
Western’s Tommy Magnum had other plans, however.
Mangrum’s layup with 1:12 left in the third quarter was only Western’s third field goal since the closing minutes of the opening frame, and the inside bucket breathed life into a Warrior bench that had been docile for most of the contest.
The six-foot-three sophomore notched seven of Western’s first eight points of the fourth quarter, highlighted by an emphatic three-point play to open the frame. Mangrum, who notched a team high 17 points, showed great resolve despite the lopsided score, and helped engineer the slow but steady 22-10 run over an eight-minute stretch. The surge helped Western pull within two possessions for the first time since the early stages of the second quarter.
Rampini added nine points while senior captain Chris McGahren managed seven. Only six Warriors touched the score sheet in Monday night’s contest and for the first time all season, the Patriots were able to dribble out the clock against their archrivals to the west.
Maxx Jarmon and Na’il Arnold each added eight points for the Patriots.
Western Albemarle (18-6) will host the first round of the 3A Region 3C Tournament next Monday night, while the Patriots will travel to Crozet for a rubber match with Louisa on Tuesday in the 2018 Jefferson District Championship Game.
Louisa marks the lone blemish on Albemarle’s schedule, as the Lions knocked off the Patriots by one point in thrilling fashion earlier this month.
Between revenge and repeating as JD Tournament champs, there is no shortage of motivation for AHS heading into the clash with Louisa.
“Coach Maynard came into the room with us and said, ‘Yeah, we got Louisa,” Anderson said. “When coach is hype, we’re all hype, so it’s a great feeling to play somebody that beat us last time on a last second shot … we’re looking forward to it.”