It had already been an eventful week for Fluvanna County boys basketball already. Back on Tuesday the Flucos beat Western Albemarle for a critical home victory to stay in the mix in the Jefferson District title race. Then at the end of the third quarter, Bobby Gardner notched his 1000th career point on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
That would’ve been enough.
But Fluvanna’s week was far from over.
Orange County had already tightened things up in the third quarter and the Hornets eventually forced overtime before the Flucos – thanks to Gardner making three steals in overtime — finally prevailed 70-69.
“It was not a thing of beauty but like l told the guys, it’s games like this that’ll cause you to win a game like this later in the postseason if we’re lucky enough to be there,” said Fluvanna coach Heath Bralley.
Gardner finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals for another huge performance while reaching that 1,000 career point mark. He got some serious help from Lance Bruce as well who scored 15 points, had six boards and dished out four assists.
Orange County got back into the game after trailing by 13 at the break behind a prolific shooting night by Braylon Stanley who scored 26 points and a monster double double of 21 points and 21 rebounds from Chase Rollins. Stanley knocked down four 3-pointers in the second half and the last of those four came with 42 seconds left to tie the game up and force overtime.
“Chase is our leader on and off the floor and Braylon is our guy right behind him,” said Orange coach Adam Utz. “Braylon really started to feel it on offense and we needed that.”
The Hornets’ momentum and the home crowd carried them to an early lead in overtime, but Fluvanna eventually went up 67-64 when Benny Denby came up with a block and Gardner raced the other way for a fastbreak layup. Orange refused to go away though, and eventually got an offensive board and drew a foul with 25 seconds left. The aftermath of that foul led to a technical on a Fluvanna player and Rollins and Stanley combined to go 3-for-4 at the line and take a 69-67 lead. Despite that success at that moment, the Hornets’ 12 missed free throws (they went 11-for-23 at the line) loomed large.
“We got punched and we responded with great effort, great intensity,” Utz said. “We didn’t follow through and finish the game but I think we learned more from that loss than any win we’ve had this season. That’s a high level game, a playoff basketball atmosphere with a well-coached team with one of the better players (Gardner) in the district.”
After a failed Flucos possession, Orange missed two free throws on the other and Fluvanna’s Chazz Barksdale-White got fouled quickly. Barksdale-White hit the second of two free throws and then Fluvanna tried to trap on the inbounds. Eventually, Orange made one pass too many, Gardner got his hand on it in the middle of the floor and raced down for an uncontested lay-up with four seconds left. Orange raced the other way but couldn’t finish and take the lead, giving Fluvanna the critical one-point road win.
“It was a struggle, but at the end I saw the ball so I went and got it and finished the game off,” Gardner said. “We’re on a six-game win streak so we’ve just got to keep getting wins and keep moving.”
Hanging in at the end of the game when the home crowd had come alive and momentum seemed to have swung toward the Hornets was a critical step forward for the Flucos.
“This group never quits and they’re connected. I’m so proud of them, they just never gave up even when adversity hit there in overtime,” Bralley said.
Gardner posting a huge stat line is becoming par for the course for the Flucos this season as he takes on more of the load. Reaching 1,000 career points on a buzzer beating three was fitting.
“He’s grown in so many ways, but yeah he’s a program changer,” Bralley said. “Last year, him, combined with Kobe were a special duo. He has definitely shown his improvement and he’s a special player that any college would be lucky to have.”
Fluvanna will look to keep that win streak rolling when they square off with Albemarle Tuesday in what has now become a pivotal game in the district title race while the Hornets host Western Albemarle the same night.