Western Albemarle Basketball Equipped to Make Deep Run in State Tournament

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Western Albemarle head coach Darren Maynard Western Albemarle head coach Darren Maynard
Sophomore Garrett Payne Sophomore Garrett Payne
Senior Matteo Rampini Senior Matteo Rampini

Beating Spotswood in the region championship game had eluded Western Albemarle the past two seasons.

Senior Jed Strickland says, "They knocked us out in the conference tournament the past two years, so we were definitely out for revenge."

But in the two school's third straight meeting in the title game, the Warriors finally prevailed.

Darren Maynard says, "...so we've already kind of gone one step further than last year. I think that meant a lot to our kids to win the regional." 

"Yeah, it gives us a lot of confidence," says senior Matteo Rampini We really feel like we can make some noise in states."

The Warriors have reached the state quarterfinals the last three years in a row, but haven't been able to get out of the first round.

"We're used to being there," says Senior Chris MGahren. "Its not going to be unusual for us to be playing in the state quarterfinals."

Strickland says, "Pretty much all of our starting five and a couple of people on the bench have been in that situation before, so going into games like this, we definitely feel more prepared than a lot of teams out there."

Western hosts Region D runner-up Hidden Valley, Friday at Albemarle High School.

Albemarle is a familiar venue for the Warriors and Hidden Valley is a familiar opponent.

Western beat the Titans in last year's regional tournament.

Rampini says, "They're a really good team but they graduated a lot of players, so I feel like we can really cause them some problems."

The Warriors return plenty of senior leadership and shooters.

But this year's team has more of an inside presence with sophomores Garrett Payne and Thomas Mangrum.

Payne stands at 6-foot-5, while Mangrum is 6-foot-3.

Rampini says, "Many teams believed that we were just a three-point shooting team and that they can just bully us, but now that we have these big guys inside, we can put the ball in the basket really well." 

Maynard says, "65 blocks from our perimeter players is out of this world. I've never really seen numbers like that before."

Strickland says, "We've got a lot of seniors. We've got some experience. We feel like this is really the year that we can get it done and get to the next level." 

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