It was Louisa’s senior night.
It was a Tuesday night.
It was just another district game.
At least, that’s what ‘coach speak’ will say.
It was unlike any other road game Fluvanna has ever played. It was a senior night Louisa wishes were friendlier to the home team. It was still a Tuesday night but it was a must-win district game for FCHS.
“It was another game for us,” said FCHS head coach Munro Rateau. “I know the community was excited about it. It was more important to get the win then where we were at.”
Louisa has started the process of rebuilding its high school after the August 2011 Mineral Earthquake destroyed the building and a local elementary school. The basketball team has been shuffled from gym to gym. Last year LCHS played games at Monticello High School in Charlottesville.
This year the girls’ and boys’ squads have played at Monticello, Mineral Baptist Church and the Shoebox at Fluvanna Middle School. The FMS building was the FCHS building just eight months ago. And 11 months ago the Flucos won their second straight Region II Div. 3 championship in the beloved Shoebox.
“It feels like home,” said sophomore Vinny Agee. “We got a regional championship here, two years in a row. The new gym feels good but it doesn’t feel like home yet. We are still working on that.”
Yes, the Shoebox is a fraction of the size of the new Fluvanna County High School gymnasium (still unnamed). The ‘box still is enough for the Louisa boys’ basketball team to play a majority of its home games.
It hasn’t been easy for the Lions. Attendance is low. Most nights the Louisa athletic program is losing money by just having a game. One night the crowd numbered so low for district game, LCHS lost twice as much money as it brought in.
Attendance was not a problem Tuesday night. The crowd was partying as if it were 1999 and Fluvanna was hosting broder rival Louisa, not the other way around.
By estimates, the gym was about 80 percent filled Tuesday night, maybe higher. The noise was as loud as it used to be. The heat was not nearly as hot as one might remember, but it was darker. It was much darker. Quick count showed eight lights out, none above the playing floor.
The floor was about as remembered, maybe a tad worse. It was a skating rink at times and that was after it was swept and mopped before the junior varsity game. It didn’t shine like the new floor but it still had the history of four state championships (boys and girls combined).
It still was the Shoebox and it still felt like home for Fluvanna.
And boy did they start the game like it were home.
“The kids were excited to be back,” said FCHS head coach Munro Rateau. “I had to try to keep them on Friday to stop worry about this game. They’ve been talking about it. The kids at school were excited about it.”
The pace was hectic at first; it was like watching a hockey game. After the first quarter, the boys in blue were up 22-6. A slower second quarter brought the lead to single digits and it stayed hovering around 10 points the rest of the way. FCHS never trailed.
For the Lions, they hosted a senior night against a rival in the rival’s borders. Not an easy task.
“I told the guys five weeks ago when I knew this was our game for senior night that something was going to be up. I’ve been here long enough to know that you aren’t going to come somewhere like this and not face something or some kind of adversity,” said LCHS head coach Brian Wilson.
If the Shoebox could talk, it would’ve welcomed Rateau and the boys back with the heartiest of Southern greetings.
“It’s pretty cool,” said FCHS forward Jalen Harrison about being back.
The Flucos warmed up in t-shirts that said, ‘FCHS Basketball’ on the front. On the back it said, ‘Shoebox…we’re back!’
They were back. And the Shoebox seemed glad to have ‘em.
“It was a great high school atmosphere and we did a really good job,” said Rateau after the game.
Maybe the lucky Fluco Shoe’ will leave a light on to welcome Fluvanna back another time.
Just bring a few extra bulbs, Rateau. You might need them.