A community newspaper serving western Albemarle County

WAHS Boys Varsity Basketball Runner-up in Conference Finals

By Eric J. Wallace

Top row, from left to right: Assistant coach Ryan Hughes, Chris McGahren, Mitch Larkin, Daniel Thomas, Austin Cress, Jed Strickland, Garrett Payne, Teo Rampini, coach Darren Maynard. Patrick Bodnarick, Josh Coffman, Ryan Ingram, Gabe Nafziger.

The Western Albemarle boys’ varsity basketball team had a strong year, finishing second in both the Jefferson District and Conference 29 playoffs. Going into the conference title game against Spotswood—a regional powerhouse they’ve met and lost to in the final for four straight seasons—the team had a record of 20-5. They led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but wound up losing by a narrow five points.

“I’m very proud of my guys,” said coach Darren Maynard after the game. “We played well enough to win tonight, but we weren’t allowed to do that. I can’t find any fault in them; what a heck of an effort.”    

The loss came as the end of a season featuring a tough schedule and unanticipated obstacles. “We had 5A Albemarle at 22-2 overall, 5A Mills E. Godwin at 19-4 overall, Charlottesville at 19-8, and Louisa County, which is always a battle,” said assistant coach Jonathan Faulconer. “Additionally, we had to play through a series of injuries which, while they were hard to cope with at the time, ended up helping us develop some good depth in all positions. That made the team stronger overall and will definitely play a factor in the years to come.”

Leading the team throughout the season was senior captain and state standout point guard, Ryan Ingram. “Ryan led the team in scoring throughout the season and had a record-breaking year, surpassing Billy Baber to become WAHS’s all-time leading scorer, with over 1,350 career points,” said Faulconer. A strong all-around player, Ingram also led the team in assists and steals, tallying enough of both to earn second place standing in WAHS record-books.

Both Maynard and Faulconer say Ingram’s scoring feats were achieved in a system that isn’t geared to produce individual high-scorers. “Our offensive system is fine-tuned for balance,” said Faulconer. “It isn’t designed to feed one player; rather, it’s set up to take advantage of wherever the open look is, exploiting whatever the defense gives us. What Ryan’s achieved in his career, he’s done working within that system.”

“[Ingram] has great speed, vision, athletic ability and can really shoot the ball and score in different ways,” Maynard added, piling on the praise. “He’s such a great teammate. Where does it ever happen in high school basketball that your all-time leading scorer has a chance to be your all-time assist man too? I’ve said this before, but Ryan conducts himself around his teammates like he’s the twelfth man on the team. He really is one-of-a-kind.”

Ingram will continue his athletic career at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania next fall. He was named to the All-Conference 29 first team, and was designated the conference’s Player of the Year.

Beyond Ingram, a core group of strong starters rounded out the Warriors lineup. “Our 6-foot-9-inch senior center, Austin Cress, led the team in rebounds, was a huge defensive presence around the basket, and a good low-post scorer,” said Faulconer.

Then there was senior guard Josh Coffman, who also received All-Conference 29 first team honors. “He was our most valuable defensive player, shadowing and oftentimes completely shutting down our opponent’s top guard,” Faulconer continued. “He contributed on offense as well, developing into a scorer this year by working his double-threat ability to drive or shoot from behind the arc.”

Additional standouts included juniors Jed Strickland, Tao Rampini and Chris McGharen. According to Maynard, the former two started nearly every game and, over the course of the season, developed into solid varsity players adept at working either in the post or on the wing as shooters. Meanwhile, McGharen, who was out for most of the season due to a facial injury sustained in an early-January game, slipped back into the fold in the post season, bolstering the team’s offensive firepower with his keen-eyed marksmanship from behind the line, sinking five three-pointers in his debut against Fluvanna.

With these starters returning next season, Maynard expects it will be a great year. “In addition to three starting players, we’ll be returning rising senior role-player Daniel Thomas, as well as rising tenth grader and part-time starter Garrett Payne,” said Faulconer. “Also, we have two promising rising tenth graders in Tommy Mangrum and Charlie Weyher, as well as strong juniors in Caleb Perez and Gabe Nafziger.”

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