Rise and Fire: Western girls hold off Fluvanna to earn shot at state berth

Photo by Bart Isley

Western Albemarle girls basketball’s Anna O’Shea seemed to sense that Western needed something.


“I just like those big moments, I like to save up my special powers for those moments because they’re the things I think about and dream about, hitting those shots,” O’Shea said.


With Fluvanna furiously trying to gather momentum in the fourth quarter, the Warriors’ senior guard caught a pass in an unsettled situation, made a short move to her left to shake the closing defender and fired, knocking down a key 3-pointer. O’Shea’s shot helped keep the Flucos at arm’s length and helped push Western to a 45-34 victory in the Class 3, Region C quarterfinals.


“I say all the time that I love all the players but I really love seniors because they’ve been through it, they know the situation,” said Western coach Kris Wright. “We were in a huge regional game last year at Liberty-Bedford and the game got kind of tight and she drove for a lay-up. She’s just a kid who has confidence in her ability and she’s willing to accept the result either way.”


The win puts Western (20-6) just a victory away from the state tournament for the fifth time in the last 10 seasons. They’ll face Brookville Wednesday night on the road for a spot in the region title game and the state quarterfinals.


Western Albemarle jumped out on the Flucos early, jumping out to a 13-5 lead thanks in large part to nine first quarter points by sophomore Sydney Sherman. Sherman is a particular matchup problem for the Flucos who are young and talented but deeper at guard than down low, and Sherman made them pay early on.


By halftime, the Warriors had stretched the lead out to 26-11 and they were in complete control. Sherman finished with 11 points and five rebounds. O’Shea scored 10 points, going 4-for-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Mady Starsia chipped in seven first half points and five rebounds. Elisabeth Coffman had six points, five assists, two steals and just two turnovers in another steady, sterling effort from the junior point guard. Caity Driver added five points and five rebounds.


Fluvanna managed to counterpunch early in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 35-27 before O’Shea’s big bucket seemed to stop the Flucos in their tracks. Fluvanna just didn’t have enough offense to counter the Warriors’ early onslaught or complete the comeback despite an increased defensive intensity after halftime.


“We’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the basket,” said Fluvanna coach Chad White. “The effort is there, but we’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the basket.”


Nevaeh Ivory led all scorers with 13 points while Kyia Scott and Jules Shepherd each chipped in six points.


Despite Fluvanna’s young roster, the loss ended the careers of one key player in Jemika Johnson as well as a host of role players.


“We have players like Michelle Hammond who’s elected as a captain two or three straight years but understands her role and she doesn’t play a lot but she’s the loudest one on the sidelines,” White said. “(Tahirah) Amos comes in halfway through the season and gave us some good minutes down the stretch. When they’re called on, they give us what they can give us.”