In the new conference-driven playoff format, with a pair of elimination games to open the postseason, teams would be wise not to let lower-seeded opponents hang around long.
Western Albemarle’s boys basketball team wasted little time Tuesday night putting away Monticello, jumping out to an 8-0 lead and never looking back as they rolled 77-56 over the Mustangs in the first round of Conference 29.
“I thought our energy level was good all the way through,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We had the right urgency that you need to approach an elimination type game with. We weren’t air-tight on some execution things we had some lulls there where we kind of let them get back in it (but) effort-wise I’m really happy.”
Four first quarter 3-pointers helped spark the Warriors’ early onslaught, with Chase Stokes, Jake Maynard, Will Cress and Eli Sumpter all connecting from beyond the arc in the opening quarter. Western hit 10 3-pointers on the night with Maynard and Sumpter combining for seven of them.
Maynard finished with 20 points on the night while Sumpter checked in with 17 and Stokes logged 15 points. Stokes finished just shy of a double double with nine points while Michael Vale had six boards and Maynard hauled in five. Sumpter dished out seven assists on the night.
The Mustangs wrapped up a roller-coaster of a season by their young roster that included a five-game win streak during Jefferson District play. Being aligned in a challenging Conference 29 with the likes of Western, Fort Defiance and Spotswood was going to make any movement in the postseason a challenge.
“From the beginning of the year to now I think the team has grown,” said Monticello coach Robert Shelton. “They’ve matured. Even tonight it’s a learning experience against an experienced Western team. But the guys have grown up a lot.”
Savion Thomas led the Mustangs with 18 points while Malik Barbour had 14. Freshman Jayden Nixon chipped in seven.
The Warriors advance to the Conference 29 semifinals Thursday against Fort Defiance at Monticello at 7:30 p.m. after Spotswood faces off with Turner Ashby at 6 p.m. in the other semifinal.