MINERAL — Charlottesville basketball coach Mitch Minor affectionately refers to his team as “The Smurfs” due to their lack of overall team size.
The Black Knights showed the size of the fight in the team can overcome diminutive size Wednesday night during a 49-48 victory at Louisa County in the regular season finale for both teams.
Zymir Faulkner scored a game-high 19 points, but it was his play on the defensive end that helped the Black Knights knock off the regular season Jefferson District champions.
With CHS leading 49-48 with 15.6 seconds left, Faulkner missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Louisa County (18-4) an opportunity to win the game. The Lions tried to swing the ball inside for an open look, but the ball sailed high and Faulkner pounced on it with five seconds left to secure the win.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year,” Minor said. “They are a very good team and it was really close at our place, it was a one-point game, and our guys just really competed tonight, and it just shows what they’re capable of when they put their total effort into the game.”
The Black Knights (13-8) were sharp for most of the first half as they tried to impose their will with a hard-nosed man-to-man defense. They held the Lions to 4-for-19 shooting from the floor in the first quarter.
CHS took advantage of Louisa’s shooting woes, as Faulkner drained back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter to give the Black Knights a 15-12 lead after one quarter.
Louisa answered in the second quarter thanks to the play of Isaac Haywood and Mark Carter. The two big men combined for eight points to open the quarter as the Lions took a 22-21 lead with four minutes left in the half.
Charlottesville responded with an 11-2 run over the final four minutes, capped by Daimon Washington’s 60-footer at the buzzer than banked off the glass and in to give the Black Knights a 34-24 advantage.
After halftime, the Lions turned to Xavien Hunter and Chris Shelton to get them back in the game. Shelton scored the first seven points of the second half and Hunter was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe to trim the CHS lead to 41-40 with eight minutes left.
Minor knew the Lions would make a run.
“I thought we played a good all-around game,” Minor said. “We didn’t score well in the third quarter, but in the first half, I thought we did a good job of playing defense and getting them out of their rhythm.”
In the fourth quarter, it was the supporting cast that came up with several big plays for the Black Knights. Lewis Tate picked up a loose ball and converted it into a layup to give Charlottesville a 45-42 lead with 4:40 left.
Two minutes later, Tyree Carter scored a layup with a great euro-step move to extend the lead to 48-44 with 2:14 remaining.
Louisa didn’t go away quietly. Shylek Washington grabbed a missed free throw and converted a three-point play to make it a 49-48 game with 49 seconds left.
But that would be as close as the Lions would get as Charlottesville went to work on the defensive end in the final two possessions to salt the game away.
“I thought we did a good job of playing man-to-man defense all night,” Minor said. “We did a pretty good job of hedging at times. I was happy with the guys’ effort tonight. I think that is a big confidence booster for them heading into the tournament.”
Tate finished with eight points and was a force inside on the boards for the Black Knight. Nick Motley added six points.
Chris Shelton and Xavien Hunter scored 13 points apiece to lead Louisa County. Isaiah Washington and Daimon Washington did a great job of man-to-man defense on Shelton, holding him scoreless in the final frame.
“I give our district champions all the credit in the world. They are long, they’ve got good speed and they shoot the ball well,” Minor said. “Tonight, we did some things well to win the game. We rebounded it well and we shot the ball pretty well early on.”
Charlottesville earned the No. 4 seed in the Jefferson District tournament and host Orange County on Friday night at 7:30 pm. Louisa County hosts No. 8 seed Monticello in a first-round matchup.