The Northside basketball team will remember Western Albemarle like gnats at a summer picnic.
They just wouldn’t go away.
Fending off every Northside attempt to pull away, the Warriors from Crozet, VA held on in the final 30 seconds of overtime to pull off the stunning 68-64 win over the Vikings in the Class 3 state semifinal match-up Tuesday night at the Salem Civic Center.
Northside saw its undefeated season and run to its first basketball state championship in school history go up in flames against the underdog Warriors.
In front of an announced crowd of 2,500, including busloads of Western Albemarle fans who made the trip from just outside Charlottesville, everyone got their money’s worth.
The Warriors showed from the opening tip they came to play, quickly establishing an inside game that would give the Vikings fits all night.
Northside, however, answered the call with some hot shooting of their own, taking a 17-13 lead after one quarter. But, the Vikings began digging a hole when starters Nick Price and Julian Wooden both picked up two fouls in the opening frame.
The Vikings looked to be ready to pull one their patented runs in the second period, but Western stayed within striking range, and when forward Jed Strickland was fouled on a shot from behind-the-arc with 5 seconds left, he sank all three from the charity stripe to send the Warriors to the locker room up 31-30.
While Price had been held scoreless and Julian Wooden held to 2 points in the first half, reserve Jordan Wooden, with 9 points, and starters Kasey Draper and Cameron O’Conner, with 8 each, were keeping the Viking ship afloat through the first sixteen minutes.
Things stayed nip and tuck throughout the third, with the Vikings up 43-42 heading to the final 8 minutes. For Western Albemarle it was a case of staying close and giving themselves a chance against the 28-0 Vikings heading to the last frame. The biggest lead by either team had been 6 points.
The Warriors led by two in the final 10 seconds of regulation, but a reverse layup by Draper tied things at 59 and an off-balance shot by Western at the buzzer brought on the extra four minute period.
After the teams swapped scores to remain tied at 61, Strickland put the Warriors up for good with a pair of free throws. Garrett Payne added another from the charity stripe for a 64-61 Warrior lead. After Northside missed from long range, Western looked ready to celebrate when Chris McGahren led a two-man break to the other end with less than 10 seconds remaining.
But, rather than an uncontested snow bunny, McGahren went for the definitive slam dunk that caromed high off the heel of the rim, and a foul sent O’Conner to the line for the Vikings. He made one of two, and McGahren was fouled on the inbounds pass with 5.1 seconds left.
McGahren made both for a 66-62 Warrior lead and Northside went full court with a pass to Julien Wooden for a layup to make it 66-64. McGahren was fouled again and sealed the win with the final two free throws.
Draper had a game-high 18 points for Northside, while Julien Wooden added 16, with O’Conner and Jordan Wooden chipping in 12 points each.
Tommy Mangrum, who did his damage in the paint, led Western Albemarle with 17 points. McGahren followed with 16, with Teo Rampini netting 11 for the Warriors.
Northside had the advantage from long range, hitting 10 of 27, while the Warriors were only 4 of 10 from behind-the-arc. But, Western made up for the difference in the paint and by going 16 of 21 from the free throw line while Northside struggled from the line, hitting only 8 of 17.