To not be overshadowed by a last second 3-pointer that winds up winning the game takes an awful lot. North Stafford junior Jordan Thompson provided the late contest heroics that ultimately won his team the game, but the buzz as Albemarle fans left the gym after a 66-63 loss was “who is TJ Jones?”
“I still have no idea how to defend him,” said Patriots coach Greg Maynard. “We knew coming in that he game 31, 31 and 32 points (in his previous games).”
Albemarle threw the kitchen sink at Jones and was successful with its box-and-one approach in the first and fourth quarter at clamping down on the Wolverines dynamic point guard. And with the game tied at 63, despite Jones’ cooled shooting hand, there was no question in anyone’s mind that it would be him firing a last second shot.
“We knew they were going expect it to come from TJ,” said Wildcats coach Brad Lear. “We ran a play where our wings come up the side and he gets a chance to turn the corner and he can go to basket at their man if it’s there. If not, he kicks it out to Thompson in the corner. Now our freshman wing man, he was in the wrong corner, so when the fumble happened, the kid that was supposed to shoot did, but he had to fight through our man and their’s to get the shot off. But he did.”
The Patriots were all over Jones as North Stafford attempted to wind out the last minute of play and launch a potential game winning shot. In fact, it looked as though they had been successful when Jones finally got the ball in the corner from beyond the arc, but wound up in a dribbling mess that nearly resulted in a turnover. But in the seemingly broken play, Thompson got the ball in the same corner and put up a moon ball over Albemarle’s defense, which lept at the junior to force the uneasy angle.
“We did everything we could to make sure Jones didn’t shoot,” Maynard said. “The kid made a nice shot.”
It was only Thompson’s second field goal of the day, but the 3-pointer, which also drew a foul, fell through the net to put his team up by threewith 4.7 seconds left. The missed free throw after allowed Albemarle one chance to force overtime.
Patriots guard Lee Carneal got a look and took a 3-pointer to equalize the game, but despite his impressive second half play, the senior did not have Thompson’s luck.
Before that frenetic finish, the game was all about Albemarle’s Andrew Mann and Jones as both squads did all they could defensively to limit the opposing player.
Jones, a South Carolina transfer who’s drawn interest from VCU and a slew of Division 2 programs, poured in an impressive 31-point and 9-assist evening and Mann didn’t disappoint either with his 18-point 13-rebound evening.
After staying out in front in the first quarter behind Mann, Albemarle fell into a 5-point hole when Jones got hot from beyond the arc and in transition. Jones’ incredible shooting continued into the third as he helped his team take a 9-point lead into the fourth.
It was there that Albemarle looked its shakiest, but Mann’s continued 2-way play and Carneal’s fourth quarter surge saw the home team surge back. Carneal’s offense and defense allowed the Patriots to make it a 1-point contest midway through the fourth.
“Lee played one heck of a game and I wish he hadn’t fought through foul trouble, but he and Andrew caught fire there,” Maynard said. “We had trouble stopping them and when we finally did, we didn’t take advantage of it. We missed some free throws and some layups that could have put us in much better shape.”
He eventually gave his team the lead outside of two minutes to play and a Mann free throw made it 63-61 in favor for Albemarle with 1:37 to go. Then Thompson made it a tie game and with less than a minute to play, the Wildcats (3-1, 3-1 Commonwealth District) executed their last minute offense.
In addition to Mann’s double-double game, Carneal put together a 12 points and seven assists and three steals. Ben Baranik was outstanding on defense when pitted against Jones but also scored 11 points. Kendall Hawkins and Daniel Vaugn added 9 and eight points respectively.
Albemarle (3-1, 2-1) doesn’t have to wait long to bounce back. The Patriots get cross-country rival Western Albemarle today at 7:30 p.m, with the Warriors coaching staff in attendance to scout their next day opponent.
“I’m hoping this helps and so I told the kids we’ve got to put this behind us,” Maynard said. “If we’re still pouting we’re going to get beat again because Western’s scoring. It’s a totally different style, not the speed and running, but they do what they do very well. So I’m glad we’re playing (today), of course it still would be nice to have a practice to get ready for that.”