Charlottesville High School sophomores Nic Motley and Zymir Faulkner have played enough basketball together in their lives to know that they can trust one another, even when things aren’t working out.
The lifelong friends entered Friday’s contest at Monticello with plenty of energy, but the enthusiasm quickly turned into foul trouble for both players in the Black Knights’ 58-40 win over the Mustangs.
Motley picked up two quick fouls in the game’s opening minutes before Faulkner was whistled for his third infraction in the closing seconds of the first half.
The foul trouble forced Motley and Faulkner to play more conservative than they usually do, which led to an uneven play on offense for stretches of the game.
But once the second half started, it was back to pedal-to-the-medal.
“[Faulkner] and I have been playing alongside each other for a very long time, so we’re used to it,” Motley said of the pair battling through adversity. “We don’t argue; we just know how to get each other back on the flow… If we miss a shot, we can talk about it, and we’ll do better the next time.”
Motley and Faulkner played aggressive, yet disciplined on defense in the final two quarters, which transitioned to the offensive side of the floor. The two sophomores combined for over half of Charlottesville’s points and 12 steals in the Black Knights’ triumph over Monticello.
Faulkner led all scorers with 18 points, while Motley added 12. The impressive point totals came in the midst of foul trouble and their shots that were not falling early on.
Charlottesville (4-3) jumped out to an early 11-2 lead, and never looked back en route to its second road win against an Albemarle County foe in as many weeks.
The Black Knights led by 10 at the break, and later stretched its advantage to 17 points, following an and-one from Motley. Motley had two old fashioned three-point-plays in the second half, while his backcourt mate, Faulkner finally got his outside shot going after intermission.
Faulkner closed out the third quarter with a triple to put the Black Knights ahead by 15.
Later in the fourth, after Motley went 1-2 from the foul line, but Faulkner battled a pair of Mustangs for the rebound, and buried another trey to complete a back-breaking, four-point possession for the Knights.
“[Faulkner] and [Motley], they do a great job for us,” Charlottesville head coach Mitch Minor said. “They’re both sophomores and they’re constantly still learning the game. They play good defense as well as playing well on offense, even rebounding. I need them for all of those phases of the game.”
Speaking of the glass, six-foot-three forward Lewis Tate outworked larger Mustang defenders for a bevy of rebounds to give his team second opportunities on offense. Tate finished the contest with six points, while Isiah Washington chipped in seven.
The Black Knights led wire-to-wire, but the early foul trouble allowed MHS to stay within striking distance in the first half.
Monticello managed just three field goals on the game’s opening 16 minutes, but some timely free throws kept CHS from running away with the game.
With Charlottesville’s two most active defenders, Faulkner and Motley, hamstrung by early whistles, Minor urged his sophomore guards to take the court with more discipline in the closing half.
Faulkner, Motley, and the rest of the Black Knights played much more sound on defense in the second half, and did not commit a foul until the final seconds of the third quarter.
“I just said, ‘Let’s just play guys.’ ‘Move your feet,’ and that’s what we did. I didn’t say anything other than encourage the guys,” Minor said. ““We did much better in the second half. I thought we came out focused. Even as as a coach I came out more focused make sure that I kept my mind in the game.”
Monticello (0-8) used a quick 5-0 surge to trim the CHS lead to just eight midway through the third quarter, marking the only time in the second half that the Black Knight lead fell to single digits.
Justin McCartney, who led the Mustangs with 11 points, highlighted the run with a three-pointer. Speaking of triples, freshman Kasi Hansberry opened the second half with a trey of his own.
Friday’s game marked Hansberry’s first varsity action of the season after a stellar start with the JV program. Head coach Gary Spry inserted Hansberry into the starting lineup, and the talented rookie had the difficult task of dealing with Faulkner, Motley, and the rest of the dynamic Charlottesville backcourt in his varsity debut.
Monticello star forward Ben Drake managed just seven points, as the senior received a heavy dose of pressure every time that he touched the ball.
Monticello will return to action against Prince Edward on Thursday, December 27, while the Black Knights will take on Eastern Mennonite as a part of the Daily Progress/NBC 29 Holiday Tournament that same day.
Once tournament play ends and the calendar flips over to January, however, Charlottesville will enjoy a healthy amount of home games. In an odd scheduling twist, the Black Knights faced Albemarle, Western Albemarle, and Monticello on the road in the month of December.
Charlottesville went two of three in the tough stretch away from home, and with all three local rivals coming to their gym in the coming weeks, the Knights feel good about their current standing.
“We’re not in the hunt anymore, we’re at the top of the district now, and it feels great,” Motley said.