It had been six years since the Western Albemarle men’s basketball team last celebrated a Jefferson District basketball crown.
That streak came to an end Monday night as the Warriors cruised to a 55-52 win over rival Albemarle to end the regular season undefeated in district play.
Luca Tesoriere scored seven points, but it was his defensive play in the final seconds that won the Warriors the first district title since 2016.
Western Albemarle (20-1, 14-0 Jefferson District) led 54-52 with 4.2 seconds left, but Albemarle had possession with play inside the sideline.
It was then that Tesoriere made the key play.
As the referee approached a five count, the ball was touched by Albemarle’s Carter Wesson near the time strip. Tesoriere made a play on the ball which forced the Albemarle player to pivot and send the ball past the timeline resulting in a backcourt violation.
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“We were just trying to make it difficult for them to get to the ball,” Tesoriere said. “Switching screens and we made it difficult for them to get the ball in. They had four or five seconds [on the officials’ count] and they just threw it up and they got [called for a] backyard.
Lucas Farmer added a free throw with 1.2 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Albemarle had another chance to send the game to overtime, but Benjamin Wesson’s half-court uprising went wide left as the Warriors celebrated an undefeated district season.
“It’s great,” Tesoriere said. “Our eight senior guys have been playing together forever. It feels good to go undefeated and get the district championship.
“We know they know a lot of our stuff,” Tesoriere said. “We were just looking for different looks and whoever has the ball and whoever has a good shot, just take it and look for opportunities for themselves.”
Monday’s regular season finale had all the makings of a heavyweight fight. Both teams came out weak before finally raising their level of play.
Jason Breen scored on a pair of baseline drives and finished on the rim to tie the game at 5-5. Wes Gobble drove to the basket and then found Elliott Kessler on his own for a 9-5 advantage over Western Albemarle.
Albemarle responded with some tough finishes inside. TaeVeon Wilson converted a 3-point play to cut the lead to one before Ross Hardy drained a 25-footer late in the first to give the Warriors a 12-8 lead.
The Patriots got back to work in the second quarter, increasing the energy at both ends of the field. Wesson converted a three-point play to pull Albemarle up 14-13 with 5:12 left in the half.
Not to be outdone, Gobble drained a 3-point corner on an inbound play and Farmer scored on a great free-throw line to extend the lead to 19-15 with 3:56 left in the quarter.
With three Albemarle starters at fault in the second quarter, coach Darren Maynard’s team continued to add to their lead. Andrew Barrese found James Meenan for a 3-point game to make it 22-15 with 1:45 left in the first half. After a steal, Gobble delivered a fine sideline pass to Meenan to cap off a 3-on-1 break to give the Warriors a 26-17 lead at intermission.
Albemarle (19-2, 12-2) caught his second breath in the third quarter and tried to get back into the game. Wesson scored three straight points and Breen and Christian Humes each buried one behind the arc to cut the lead to 34-31 with 1:57 left in the quarter.
The Warriors regained momentum late in the quarter as Barrese had a tough finish at the rim as time expired to extend the lead to 38-32.
Albemarle continues to fight.
Humes and Wesson knocked down corners and LaMari Parler added another bucket to make it 42-40 with 6:12 remaining.
After being left off the scoresheet in the first half, Josh Sime made his presence felt in record time. The senior striker scored on a finger roll for a lay-up. Two possessions later, he drove to the basket and finished the And-1 for a 52-45 lead with 2:57 to go before Albemarle’s late comeback bid fell just short.
Gobble and Farmer finished with nine points apiece to lead a balanced offensive attack for Western Albemarle. Sime and Tesoriere each added seven points as nine players scored in the win.
Wesson and Parler had 14 points apiece to lead Albemarle. Humes finished with nine points and Breen added eight more.
Both teams move into regional play as the No. 1 seed in their respective rankings. Western Albemarle will host Jefferson Forest in the first round of the Region 4D tournament. Albemarle will be the first seed in his sub-region. Both tournaments start on Friday.