The points seemed to pile up immediately. It almost felt like Western Albemarle started the game with a 14-point lead before the tip.
“That was definitely up there as one of the best starts of the year,” said Western senior Ben Turner. “We were all ready to come out and play hard and it showed in the first quarter.”
It definitely did. The Warriors rolled to a 14-0 lead to open the game and never really looked back, beating Monticello 73-62 to advance to the Jefferson District final.
Western avenged a late season road loss to the Mustangs with the victory as Parker Morris led the way with 20 points including five 3-pointers. A Morris 3-pointer, a Will Donnelly 3-pointer and two buckets from Chase Stokes provided the bulk of that early run that Monticello struggled to cut into completely the rest of the game.
“I thought we shot the ball really well,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “This game meant so much to us for a lot of reasons. A couple of weeks ago, last week, some things that have happened, I think we just wanted it really bad.”
The Warriors balanced offensive attack created all kinds of problems for the Mustangs. As they worked to close out on Morris on the perimeter, things opened up in the lane for Stokes, Turner and Austin Ellis. Stokes finished with 15 points while Turner and Ellis had 10 each. Morris’ energy from the start helped get the entire offense in gear.
“When you see a sophomore play like that you realize if you’re older than that you can do just as well,” Turner said.
Down the stretch, Will Donnelly did the heavy lifting at the free-throw line, going 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. As a team, Western was rock solid at the charity stripe, going 13 for 17 at the line in the fourth as Monticello unsuccessfully tried to foul its way back into the game.
Monticello closed the first quarter strong and cut Western’s lead to five, but the Warriors didn’t blink, building the lead back to 10 points by halftime.
Offensively the Mustangs had a productive night as Denzel Terry led the way with 18 points and Jhalil Mosley logged 14. In the fourth quarter, Addison Aldous and Sam Patterson got in gear and had nine and seven points respectively in the frame.
Western got good minutes out of its bench too, with Brandt Berry and Sam Chisholm in particularly playing solid defensively for long stretches.
“We needed that, because I didn’t want to play our starters for 32 minutes,” Maynard said. “I sort of had to rein myself in and make myself to go to the bench. I thought Brandt did a really nice job defensively for us and of course the post kids, Brett (Engle) and Sam (Chisholm) did a nice job and Jake (Maynard) did a nice job on the perimeter. I thought we covered that well.”
The Warriors will face a fourth game with Charlottesville Friday night at 8 p.m. for the Jefferson District title. The Warriors have won all three previous meetings between the two squads — the two regular season clashes and a Holiday Tournament game back in late December — with the last meeting on January 27.