Panthers deny Patriots with defense

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Judging by the way it played Monday night, the Potomac boys basketball team didn’t take long to get the memory of last week’s Cedar Run district Tournament semifinal loss to Stonewall Jackson out of its mind.

The Panthers got balanced scoring and gave a superb defensive effort in a 64-42 rout of Albemarle in the Northwest Region quarterfinals. The Patriots (18-6) scored 88 points in their district tournament final win over regular-season champion Culpeper but scored just six points in the first quarter Monday and never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

The Panthers (20-4), who got a team-high 15 points from Jason Flagler, will play at home on Wednesday against Woodbridge in the regional semifinals.

Flagler was cold early, hitting just one of his first seven shots, while second-leading scorer Bryan Butler had just eight points in all. But thanks to superb offensive execution, it didn’t matter much. Potomac consistently found the open man in the Albemarle man-to-man and zone trap defenses, leading to several layups and close-in shots.

Tyrell Freeman contributed 11 points and was a force on the defensive glass while reserve Germain Williams had eight points and added terrific perimeter defense on the Patriots’ backcourt. Albemarle guards Brett Maynard and Dallin Hardy contributed just 13 points between them, with three of them coming on a 3-pointer by Maynard after the outcome had already been decided.

Potomac led 18-8 at the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 28-15 at halftime. In the third quarter, the Panthers buried the hosts with aggressive fullcourt and halfcourt man-to-man pressure, going on a 12-2 run to start the half.

Six-foot-six center Drew Atchison, the 2001-2002 Commonwealth District Player of the Year, had nine points in the first half for the Patriots but scored just three in the second half. Williams called the defensive effort from Freeman “by far the best he’s played this season” and Freeman, a senior, didn’t want to end the season on consecutive sour notes.

“With Bryan and Jason being juniors, and with the seniors on the team, we didn’t want to go out like we did in the district tournament,” Freeman said.

“We came together as a team,” added Williams.

While Butler suffered through foul trouble and had to sit for large parts of the game — at one point he had more fouls (3) than field goals (2) — his 24-foot heave just before the end of the first quarter provided a snapshot on how things went for the Panthers.

“I don’t know if we got all the breaks, I saw one of their shots go about 16 feet in the air [off the rim] and go back in,” said Potomac coach Kendall Hayes. “But I think we earned what [breaks] we got. We played extremely hard both offensively and defensively.”

“You can’t fall behind with a team that quick,” said Albemarle coach Greg Maynard. “Because if you do, you have to come out and pressure and they’ll get by you and get a lot of layups.”

Eric Hayes scored the game’s first five points and went on to score 14 for Potomac. Atchison and Maynard both tallied 12 points for Albemarle, which went just 15-of-42 from the field.

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