Louisa County’s boys basketball team isn’t satisfied.
“Their motto is: ‘Let’s be greedy,” Louisa coach Robert Shelton said. “Why not one more?’”
Now the Jefferson District and Region 4B champs are going to get a shot at one more trophy as they beat defending state champion Lake Taylor 74-67 Thursday night at Churchland High School in Portsmouth.
Shelton is no stranger to the state championship game. In 1994, Shelton was a member of an LC team that made it to the title game under Fitzgerald Barnes, coming up a little short to Salem for the crown. Now Shelton will get a chance for a state title as a coach as his Lions erased a 16-point second-half deficit to vault themselves into the title game.
The Lions will meet GW-Danville Thursday at 8 pm at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
Xavien Hunter led four Louisa players in double figures with 24 points as the Lions’ improbable run continues. Jarrett Hunter had 17 points and seven assists while Chris Shelton had 16 points including three 3-pointers. Isaac Haywood chipped in 12 for the Lions and pulled down nine rebounds while blocking three shots. Mark Carter pulled down 10 boards.
Lake Taylor, the defending state champions back in the semis after losing quite a bit of production from last season, closed the first half on a 13-3 run to take a 12-point lead into the break and built a 45-29 advantage with 6:47 to go in the third on an old-fashioned three-point play from Zyrail Mitchell, who had a game-high 32 points.
Then the Lions woke up.
Jarrett Hunter fueled a 15-4 run with a three and an athletic move to the basket while a layup by Isaac Haywood forced a Lake Taylor timeout. That did nothing to stop the bleeding, however, as the Lions forced turnovers on the Titans’ first three possessions afterward, getting baskets off of two of them. Seconds before the third quarter buzzer, Chris Shelton buried a three to trim the deficit to 52-49.
“As a coach you never want to be down, but this group has been down a lot this year,” Robert Shelton said. “There have been times in the first half we fell behind by 10-plus points and then we came back. They keep fighting. They always believe. We felt if we kept playing defense these guys won’t make the same shots.”
Dajon Dawson countered with a three, one of 10 on the evening for Lake Taylor, to open the fourth, but Louisa responded with an 8-2 burst to take its first lead of the game on an elbow jumper by Jarrett Hunter with just over five minutes to go, and the Louisa contingent that had made the trip to Portsmouth began to drown out the much larger Lake Taylor crowd that didn’t have as far to travel.
“[The crowd] helped us a lot,” Xavien Hunter said. “We were down a little when we first came out. They kept us moving. They kept us pushing.”
The Louisa players on the floor, meanwhile, didn’t give that lead back.
Haywood hit a pair of huge jumpers back-to-back to open up a 66-59 cushion at the three-minute mark. Mitchell scored on a drive to cut it to five, but Louisa made its free throws down the stretch, ensuring a long but happy bus ride home.
Early on, the Titans looked poised to make a return trip to VCU. They led 20-14 after one and held Louisa without a field goal for a stretch of over three minutes in the second quarter as they got two baskets each from Mitchell, DeVeontay Tyler and Daleon Gibson during their run. A dunk by Haywood made the margin 39-27 at the break.
“We knew we had to go on offense and score,” Jarrett Hunter said. “They had a lot of guys that can score from deep and those threes add up.”
Tyler added 13 points for the Titans and Gibson nine.
Louisa hit eight threes and turned in a 12-21 performance at the foul line. Lake Taylor went 9-15 from the stripe, ending its storybook run through the state playoffs with a record of 12-18, a bit of a misleading mark due to the level of competition in the Tidewater area.
“They were hyped up and came out and punched us in the mouth,” Xavien Hunter said. “After halftime we just said ‘we gotta keep going. This game’s not over.'”
Neither is Louisa’s season just yet.
— scrimmageplay (@scrimmageplay) March 6, 2019