MINERAL – Xavien Hunter is known as one of the top perimeter shooters in the Jefferson District, but was limited to just two field goals through the first three quarters Friday night against Western Albemarle.
The senior sharpshooter found his stroke in the fourth quarter to lead the Lions to a 52-51 victory over the Warriors in a clash of district unbeatens.
Known as Buck to his friends and teammates, Hunter showcased his big-game prowess with seven points during a 14-0 run to help his team take a 48-45 lead with less than three minutes to play.
He capped the rally with a 3-pointer near the top of the key on a curl play off a screen. The senior said it was just like practice.
“I knew Jarett [Hunter] was going to find me,” Hunter said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to knock something down.’ I just adjusted my shot, I knew what I was doing wrong, and I just sunk it in.”
Louisa coach Robert Shelton agreed.
“He’s always been an aggressive kid and he’s the most confident kid in the school,” Shelton said. “Size doesn’t really affect him. He’s one of the bigger kids, and we needed him to stay aggressive. Even though shots weren’t falling and kids were getting frustrated, his team was picking him up saying ‘We need you’. We knew he was going to make plays.”
Mahlik Munnerlyn added another drive and layup on the next possession as Louisa County (6-2, 3-0 Jefferson District) extended its lead to 50-45 with 1:58 left.
Western Albemarle (10-2, 4-1) didn’t go away quietly, however.
Tommy Mangrum sank two free throws and added a short jumper to trim the lead to 50-49 with one minute to play. Hunter sank two free throws with 32 seconds left to extend the Louisa lead to 52-49.
The Warriors had a chance to tie the game on the last possession. With 10 seconds left, Mangrum had a good look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key but it was just off the mark. Josh Sime grabbed the rebound and scored a short jumper as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
Louisa County trailed for most of the game and were behind 45-34 midway through the second half. Despite the deficit, Shelton didn’t lose confidence in his team.
“When we were down, we never really felt like we were out,” Shelton said. “We felt like we could make plays. These guys, they’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s definitely all on them.”
Jarrett Hunter was a steady offensive force for the Lions all night long, finishing with a team-high 20 points. Isaac Haywood tallied 14 points, while Munnerlyn added eight.
Shelton credited his senior leaders for sticking together in the win.
“We’ve got a group of guys that have been in games like this,” he said. “I think it helps these guys have played in big games, state championship games in all types of atmospheres — Tidewater, Richmond, and here in our district which I think is one of the toughest district’s in the area. They’re battled tested. They don’t give up; they stay together and it’s just a testament to the leadership we have on this team.”
Mangrum paced Western Albemarle with a game-high 22 points. Riley Prichard added 10 and Andrew Shifflett chipped in eight off the bench.
Western Albemarle defeated Louisa County in Mineral last year in the first game of their home-and-home series. Shelton and his team were happy to draw first blood this season.
“Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be big,” Shelton said. “Western’s a great team, they’re well coached. They got us here last year and we definitely still remembered that and we wanted to make sure we played to our fullest potential. We played with a lot of intensity and we kind of avenged that loss from last year.”