By Allen Kha / Scrimmageplay.com Contributor
As a technicality, Tuesday evening’s game pitting Louisa and Fluvanna counted as a Louisa home game. But the game took place in front of a sell-out crowd looking to soak in the last regular season-game ever at the Shoebox — the Flucos’ historic home gym — before the team relocates to Fluvanna High School’s new campus next season.
The scoreboard, in fact, read the Flucos’ score under the home column to avoid confusing the fans. Such was Louisa’s luck in their 74-54 loss against the Jefferson District regular-season champion Fluvanna squad that earned at least one more game at the Shoebox.
“A home game at their gym, with their pumped-up crowd? That’s been our season, pretty much, adversity at every step. It’s really tough,” Louisa coach Brian Wilson said. “But for the first half, we were really in it, making shots and playing great defense. I didn’t even realize we out-rebounded them in the first half before [someone] told me about it after halftime. That usually doesn’t happen.”
Led by senior guard Keon Winkey, the Lions battled point-for-point with Fluvanna for the majority of the first half. Using a patient motion offense to compensate for their size disadvantage, Louisa was able to ride Winkey’s hot hand — he went 4-for-9 in the first half for 16 points and three assists — to battle to a 25-all tie with three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
After Fluvanna went on a 6-2 run in the next four minutes to jump out to a 31-27 lead, Louisa’s Kaleb Corle made a running half-court shot at the buzzer to trim the Flucos’ lead to 31-30 at half.
“After that half-court shot, it definitely felt like we had our chance to take the game in the second half, to capitalize on that swagger,” Wilson said. “But the shots stopped falling and Fluvanna started to execute.”
The Flucos came out with a vengence in the second half, looking to turn the tide on the Lions’ momentum and unexpected rebounding advantage. Led by star playmaker and Radford-signee YaYa Anderson and invigorated rebounding, Fluvanna went on a 19-1 run through the third quarter to expand the half-time score to a 50-31 lead with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.
“YaYa just physically took over in the third quarter and second half,” Fluvanna coach Munro Rateau said. “The shots started to really fall in the second half — with YaYa driving and shooting from the perimeter — and we executed as a team.”
Louisa and the Flucos essentially traded points in the fourth quarter, but the deficit was too much for the Lions to overcome by then.
“We simply came out in the second half and made it a matter of pride that we were out-rebounded [by Louisa] in the first half. It’s always a healthy competition [among] us guys in the locker room, and we stepped our game up in the second half,” said Anderson, who finished with a triple-double — 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
For Fluvanna, Tuesday evening’s victory clinched the outright Jefferson District regular season title and the top overall seed in the Region II Div. 3 tournament, and marked the team’s 20th win of the season.
So while Tuesday evening’s game was a swan-song of sorts for the Shoebox, Fluvanna still has some unfinished business to take care of before they turn off the lights to the gym.