Strong Start: Western boys open season with win over Rockbridge

Photo by Bart Isley

Last season, Rockbridge County’s squad knocked Western Albemarle’s boys basketball team out of the Region 3C playoffs. 


In this season’s opener, the Warriors left little doubt who has the early edge this season with a 56-34 victory Tuesday night that started with a 16-2 first quarter explosion for the Warriors. 


“There were a lot of first game type mistakes but a pretty good starting point,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “If we can keep getting better from there, we’re going to be pretty good. We certainly wanted to atone a little bit for the end of last year.”


A strong defensive effort spurred the win as three of the four quarters the Warriors held Rockbridge to 10 or fewer points, including the two-point first quarter and the six-point fourth. The Warriors were suffocating, with the backcourt of Riley Prichard and Andrew Shifflett leading that attack.


“I love our backcourt,” Maynard said. “We’re veteran, we’re experienced, we’re tough. We’re young inside but I’d rather be old outside and young inside.” 


Prichard finished with 12 points, five assists and five rebounds while Tommy Mangrum debuted in a role more as a wing/guard presence with 15 rebounds and six boards. Mangrum is the reigning Division 3 Jefferson District player of the year and could be even more of a nightmare for opposing defenses in this new role as Rockbridge discovered Tuesday. 


“He’s shooting the ball really well and he can do a lot of everything,” Maynard said.


Mangrum is able to move out to that spot in part because of the emergence of sophomore big man Henry Sullivan, a 6-foot-6 forward who pulled down eight boards against the Wildcats. 


“He’s made some great strides from last year,” Maynard said. “We’re really excited about his upside.”


Lucas Farmer also had a solid outing as the 6-foot-4 sophomore scored eight points and had five boards. With that group underneath, Western has the potential for a size advantage on most nights, and Mangrum will be a tough matchup for opposing guards. Given the way the Warriors play defense, that could be a recipe for some serious success this season. 


Western (1-0) will host Harrisonburg Friday night at home before taking on Wilson Memorial Monday and a rematch with Rockbridge Tuesday in a busy four games in seven days start to the season.