Lions fall in district tourney

Xavien Hunter drives through the Charlottesville defense during the Jefferson District semifinal game in The Den on Feb. 17.

 

The Louisa Lions’ boys’ basketball team was riding high in the final seconds of the Jefferson District semifinal game on Feb. 17. After struggling to keep up with the Charlottesville Black Knights for most of the fourth quarter, the offense found their footing, hitting a series of three-point baskets, including one from Jaquan Jones to tie the score with 32 seconds left.

It turned out to be more than enough time for the Black Knights. 

Zymir Faulkner missed a layup in the final seconds, but pulled down the rebound to get a second shot. The ball went over the basket, but Isaiah Washington put the ball back up, sinking the go-ahead basket as the buzzer sounded and ending the Lions’ run in the district tournament with a final score of 71-69.

“We’re both pretty similar teams, as far as our skill sets,” said Louisa Head Coach Robert Shelton. “I thought we played hard. [Charlottesville] just made one more basket than we did.

“It’s a tough loss,” he added, “but it’s one we can learn from.”

Charlottesville opened the game with an explosion of energy, going on a 12-2 run over the final minutes of the first quarter to lead 20-10. The Lions battled back in the second period, with Xavien Hunter capping a 22-15 surge with a three-point buzzer-beater, pulling Louisa to within three points at halftime.

The Lions stayed within striking distance throughout the third quarter, never falling more than four points behind the Black Knights. A late layup from Jarett Hunter put the Lions up 51-50 with just over a minute to play, but Charlottesville found an answer to retake the lead heading into the final period.

Xavien Hunter was the Lions’ top scorer with 21 points, followed by Isaac Haywood with 18 and Jarett Hunter with 12.

The Lions closed out their regular season on a high note, scoring a second consecutive Jefferson District championship with victories over Charlottesville and Orange to secure the title. 

Louisa hosted the Hornets on Feb. 12 for their final regular season game, winning 64-55 in front of their home crowd. 

“Games like this come down to who’s going to get the rebounds, who’s going to be strong enough to get the loose ball,” Shelton said. “We made some of those plays at the end, and that truly was the difference in this game.”

Jarett Hunter got things started for the Lions, scoring 12 of the team’s 14 first-quarter points. Haywood added six in the second quarter and Terry Neely put up five as the Lions extended their lead to 32-23 by halftime.

The Hornets made a run late in the game, pulling to 56-54 with 2:30 left to play, but that was as close as they would get, with Hunter and Mahlik Munnerlyn each hitting key free throws to keep the Lions ahead.

“That’s a situation we’ve been in plenty of times,” Hunter said. “Staying in the gym, grinding, stuff like that and the work nobody sees, that’s where that’s most important.”

Hunter was the leading scorer with 26 points, followed by Xavien Hunter with 15. Haywood added eight and Munnerlyn put up six.

The Lions traveled to Charlottesville on Feb. 11, bringing home a 64-59 victory over the Black Knights. 

Louisa opened the game with a strong 30-12 first-quarter performance, then extended their lead to 41-25 by halftime. Charlottesville surged in the third with a 26-16 run to cut the lead to 57-51, but the Lions held on to pull out the win.

Xavien Hunter led Louisa with 18 points, followed by Jarett Hunter with 16. Munnerlyn added 15 and Neely scored 10.

The Lions, now 17-5 for the season, look to the regional tournament next week.

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