A couple weeks into the Jefferson District boys basketball season and one thing is clear: Charlottesville and Western Albemarle have established themselves as front-runners for the District crown.
Both the Black Knights and Warriors enter Friday's matchup in Crozet undefeated in league play.
"I think it's going to be very big," Western coach Darren Maynard said Thursday. "Even though it's only December, I think it's going to go a long way towards deciding our District. The team that wins is obviously going to have a leg up. It's far from over but they're going to have a nice little advantage."
"It's a big match for this early in the season," Charlottesville coach Mitch Minor added. "(Western) was picked to win the District. They're just a good team on the inside as well as the outside."
The Warriors are the defending regular season and tournament champions in the district. They feature five senior starters, a luxury most other teams around the area can't match. Those seniors are looking forward to Friday's matchup.
"I think it'll be a nice test," senior guard Chase Stokes said. "Especially with a team of seniors. We're looking to still prove ourselves a little bit. We haven't got too many games under our belt so this will be our first real hard contest we're hoping to get."
"As good as a test as you can get all season," fellow senior Will Mason added. "Probably one of our biggest games of the year. (Charlottesville) is definitely top-3 in the District. Charlottesville's a great team and we're preparing for it like it's a huge game."
It's a game the Black Knights have been looking forward to all offseason. Western ended Charlottesville's 2013 with a one-point win in the District semifinals.
"After last year, they beat us by one point, probably kept us out of the playoffs, and so I know everyone on this team had this game down for a while," junior guard Mica Girstantas said. "So there's a lot of hype going into it and I know everyone's pretty excited."
"It's just a really big game," junior point guard Jordan Saylor added. "We've been talking about it all week. It's been on my mind since last year. It's a really big game for me personally and for the whole team."
The game may come down to which style wins out: Charlottesville likes to play fast, while Western favors a ball-control style.
"It's kind of a contrast in styles," Maynard said. "They're very quick, very athletic. They press and pressure a lot. We're a little bit more of a slow tempo so we've got to take care of the ball and do our stuff against the pressure."
"We've got to keep them off the (free throw) line," Minor said. "That's really hurt us against them in the past."