Lions go down fighting

Jaquan Jones drives toward the basket during the Lions’ regional semifinal game against Monacan.

 

Lions battle to the end.

If there’s one thing Louisa’s boys’ basketball team proved in the Region 4B semifinal game against the Monacan Chiefs, it was that.

“That’s the way we were brought up,” said Louisa senior Jarett Hunter. “We always play to that final whistle or that final buzzer. We never quit. That’s just the mentality we have.”

That mentality helped the Lions cut a 15-point deficit down to eight by the end of the game, but they still came up short, falling 68-60 and ending their season.

The Lions had a hard time getting their shots to fall early in the game, trailing 11-6 after the first quarter. The Chiefs extended their lead early in the second period with an 11-5 run to go up 22-11 at the 4:20 mark. 

“I thought we got good looks,” said Louisa Coach Robert Shelton. “Looks that we normally make... All in all, I’m proud of the shots that we got [and] of how hard we played.”

The Lions began to chip away at that lead, pulling to 26-21 with two minutes left in the half, but the Chiefs pulled away again to build up a 32-23 lead going into the break.

Louisa opened the third with a run of their own. Isaac Haywood put up six points from inside the paint to pull the Lions to within three, 34-31, over the first three minutes of the quarter. The Chiefs quickly reestablished control of the game, going on an 11-4 run to lead 45-35 heading into the final period.

The Lions’ offense fully came alive in the fourth quarter. Xavien Hunter opened the period with a long-overdue three-point basket and sank three more shots from outside the arch before the game was over. Jarett Hunter added a three-pointer of his own and went eight-for-10 from the foul line to pull the Lions as close as they could get, bringing the score to 66-60 before the Chiefs got in the last word with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the game.

“Sometimes in life, things don’t go your way, but you learn something from it,” Shelton said.

Jarett Hunter was the Lions’ top scorer with 21 points, followed by Xavien with 17. Haywood scored eight, and Mahlik Munnerlyn added seven.

The Lions opened the regional tournament with a home contest against the George Wythe Bulldogs on Feb. 26. The team came out swinging, going on an 8-0 run over the first two minutes of the game. George Wythe battled back late in the period, but the Lions stayed on top, leading 25-20.

The Lions kept up their momentum in the second quarter, with Munnerlyn knocking in a pair of treys and Jarett Hunter scoring six points of his own as they extended their lead to 42-32 at halftime.

“Our goal was to start strong, and I think the guys did a good job of having the energy [to do that],” Shelton said. “They came out in playoff mode, and that’s a testament to these guys being here before.”

The Lions let off the gas a bit in the second half, but locked down on defense to hold the Bulldogs to five points in the third quarter. Haywood put up six points in the third quarter to help extend the Lions’ lead to 57-37. George Wythe battled back in the fourth quarter, but were unable to close the gap as the Lions went on to win 66-57.

Xavien Hunter was the top scorer with 19 points, followed by Munnerlyn with 16. Jarett Hunter added 15 and Haywood scored 10.

The Lions end the season with a 17-6 record and close a chapter with a senior class that has helped lead the team to at least the regional semifinal game for three straight seasons.

“We’re definitely going to miss them, but I think they’ve set a great example for the young kids coming up on how to carry themselves and how to compete, night in and night out,” Shelton said.

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