Turn it up: Louisa boys hold off Albemarle for crucial JD win

Photo by Bart Isley

It wasn’t the kind of night where Louisa County’s boys basketball team was going to score 90 points. But it was the kind of night where the Lions could prove that their defense could carry the day when their usually dynamic offense wasn’t hitting on all cylinders.


With Chris Shelton wreaking some havoc at the top of the 1-3-1 and finding his offensive rhythm late, Louisa hung on to beat Albemarle 61-52 and pick up a critical Jefferson District win.


“I love (playing up there), it keeps my mind rolling,” Shelton said. “If we get a stop I’m excited, it’s an energy spot.”


The victory sets up a critical clash for the Lions Tuesday night on the road against Charlottesville with early control of the district race on the line.


Albemarle rallied from down 32-15 at the break to close the gap to just five points in the second half, and that’s when Shelton, who’s been pouring it in most of the year, got going. He scored his first bucket with 1:35 left in the third quarter on a fastbreak off an Isaac Haywood block and then scored 12 of his 14 total points in the fourth off the dribble and at the free throw line. Shelton had to put the ball on the floor and drive, hitting several tough shots in the lane. Shelton then snagged a steal with 25.7 seconds left to preserve a lead then at 57-51.


Shelton credited the fluidity of that late surge and finish to the Lions’ familiarity with one another.


“All of us have been playing for a while — we have that chemistry,” Shelton said. “So we didn’t really think about it, we just said let’s turn this up and everything went into place.”


That was enough offense to keep the Patriots from getting over the hump despite 12 second half points by Myles Ward for Albemarle as part of a 15-point night.


“They did some things we’re not used to seeing and we had to adjust on the fly,” said Louisa coach Robert Shelton. “Overall it’s a good team win and that’s from 1 to 14, we had a tough week of practice and I think that prepared us for today.”


Louisa’s depth and Albemarle struggling to assert itself helped the Lions build that sizeable halftime lead. While Shelton was held scoreless thanks to some pretty intense attention by the Patriots, Xavien Hunter and Jarett Hunter were lighting it up. Each of them scored the majority of their points before the break, with Xavien Hunter knocking down a pair of critical 3-pointers before finishing the night with 13 points. Jarett Hunter had 11.


Getting Haywood in the mix was also critical as the big man finished with 13 points.


“They were trying to deny me the ball and when they do that, we have open opportunities if we keep swinging,” Chris Shelton said. “When I’m not scoring, we figure out ways to score and tonight we got our bigs involved and that was our goal from the start so I’m really proud of how we played.”


If the Lions get Haywood, Shylek Washington (he had six) and Mark Carter involved, it opens things up for the array of guards to do even more damage.


Albemarle, for its part, recovered from a flat first half to make things interesting.


“I just thought we played really soft in the first half, we were settling for threes, we weren’t taking it at them,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard. “I haven’t had a team do that in a long time. In the second half we battled.”


The Lions managed to clamp down on the Pats’ Derrick Jones, who finished with seven points, and early on Albemarle couldn’t seem to solve the Lions’ 1-3-1 that requires the offense to move the ball quickly and attack. Instead, the Lions seemed to have their way with the Patriots before the break. That changed when Albemarle ripped off a 13-3 run at the start of the third quarter before the Patriots’ starters begin to wear out down the stretch while playing long minutes.


“When we got into that five point range, Shelton and (Jarett) Hunter kind of took over,” Maynard said. “At that point we were getting tired, I stayed with the starting five because that was working but we were getting tired.”


Josh Morse finished with 10 points for the Patriots while Ward led the way with 15. Dasaun Taylor had seven.


While the Lions tackle the Black Knights Tuesday, Albemarle will look to bounce back against Fluvanna on the road Monday.