RICHMOND—All season, Louisa County’s boys basketball team pulsed with an energy its opponents simply couldn’t match.
Its 16-point comeback against Lake Taylor in the state semifinals induced palpitations.
But for six minutes in the second half of Thursday’s Class 4 championship game, the Lions flatlined. An opportunistic George Washington squad ensured that the scoring drought was fatal.
The Eagles parlayed a decisive 12–0 run into a 55–44 victory, bringing a state title to Danville for the first time in 21 years.
“We’re not really used to somebody going the same speed as us,” said Louisa guard Jarett Hunter, who finished with eight points. “GW–Danville kept that same pace the whole game.”
Louisa coach Robert Shelton spent his Wednesday evening scavenging whatever film he could find on the Eagles, and his viewing informed a pick-your-poison game plan.
“We knew we couldn’t take away everything,” Shelton said. “They’re so talented at all positions that you had to account for every player.”
But the Lions couldn’t keep tabs on Shunta Wilson. The 6-foot-3 senior dazzled his way to a game-high 29 points and elicited fourth-quarter chants of “MVP” from the sizable Danville contingent at VCU’s Siegel Center.
GW–Danville (27–2) opened the game on a 7–0 run and led 27–20 at halftime. Chris Shelton (20 points) connected on a runner to give Louisa a 32–31 edge—its only lead of the game—with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Then Wilson took over. While dunking to retake the lead, his finger got caught in the net. The entanglement, he later said, was a sticking point.
“It just made me mad and put me on another level to go off and hit every shot,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, the Lions misfired from every conceivable range. In the face of GW–Danville’s rangy zone defenders, Louisa (23–5) shot just 27 percent from the floor and 5 of 20 from 3-point range. Xavien Hunter paced the Lions with 10 points.
“We were able to put together some spurts, but overall we didn’t have that consistency we normally have,” Robert Shelton said.
Thursday’s title shot was nearly a quarter-century in the making for Louisa. Robert Shelton was a standout wing on the 1994 team that fell to Salem in the finals. None of the current Lions were alive for the school’s only previous trip, but the oral history never escaped them.
“We’ve been dreaming about this since we were in middle school,” Chris Shelton said.
The aftermath had to feel like a nightmare. As the Eagles feted their championship trophy, Louisa’s players stood shoulder-to-shoulder clutching their silver medals.
For the first time, they appeared lifeless on the hardwood.
“Sometimes things just don’t go your way,” Robert Shelton said.
GW-Danville (27-2): Kapone Barley 3, Carlos Poole 2, Shunta Wilson 29, Taevon Walden 7, Ny’rek Wheeler 14, Cadrein Cunningham 0, Carl Poole 0, Nise’Re Waddell 0, Wesley Graves 0, Meco Wiggins 0, Tamasjai Reaves 0, Tyler McDuffie 0. Totals: 16 20-32 55.
Louisa (23-5): Jarett Hunter 8, Chris Shelton 20, Xavien Hunter 10, Isaac Haywood 2, Mark Carter 0, Shylek Washington 4, Price Straley 0, Terry Neely 0, Mahlik Munnerlyn 0, Michael Weakley 0, Marcus Carter 0. Totals: 17 5-7 44.
3-pointers: George Washington-Danville 3 (Wilson 3). Louisa 5 (Shelton 2, X. Hunter 2, J. Hunter).