The Louisa Lions boys’ basketball team is one win away from their first state championship title, following a huge comeback against the Lake Taylor Titans in the semifinals on Tuesday night.
The Lions overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to knock out the defending state champions 74-67 at Churchland High School in Portsmouth.
“These kids believed in themselves from day one,” Coach Robert Shelton said. “They came down here to win.”
The Titans took a quick 5-0 lead, but Louisa responded with buckets from senior Chris Shelton and junior Issac Haywood to pull to 5-4. The Titans kept one step ahead of the Lions, ending the quarter with a 20-14 lead.
The Lions fought to close the gap throughout the second quarter, going on a 10-6 run to pull to 26-24 with just under 3:30 left in the half. The Titans took full advantage of that time with a 13-3 surge to lead 39-27 at halftime.
Louisa came out in the second half and slowly started chipping away at the Titans’ lead, cutting it to three points by the end of the third quarter, 52-49.
“We’ve worked for times like this in practice,” Chris Shelton said. “We came out in the second half and played solid defense, got the steals and ran and scored.”
They kept up the attack in the fourth quarter. Junior Xavien Hunter hit a three-point shot with 6:08 on the clock to tie the game 57-57, then sank a bucket 20 seconds later to put Louisa up 59-57, their first lead of the night.
The Titans tied the game with five-and-a-half minutes to play, but the Lions hit the gas and made an 11-2 run to lead 70-61 heading into the final minute of the game. Haywood sank six points on the surge, while junior Jarett Hunter added four.
The Titans scored a pair of three-pointers over the final minute of the game, but were unable to close the gap as Louisa held on to win 74-67, securing a spot in the state championship game.
“I’m just happy for them. I’m proud of them,” Robert Shelton said of his players. “They came a long way, but we’ve still got one more to go. Their motto is: ‘Let’s be greedy. Why not one more?’”
This will mark Louisa’s first trip to a Virginia High School League state championship since 1994, when Robert Shelton was a senior on the team. The Lions finished as the state runner-up that season, falling to Salem 67-59.
“We’re glad to get coach back there,” Jarett Hunter said. “We’re going to go out and win it for him.”
Xavien Hunter led Louisa’s scoring with 24 points, followed by Chris Shelton with 18. Jarett Hunter added 17, Haywood had 10 and senior Mark Carter scored five.
The state championship game against George Washington High School from Danville is at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center in Richmond on March 7. Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
(Article by Joseph Haney)
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s March 7, 2019 issue.
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