Salem Throttles Blacksburg 79-57 to Capture River Ridge Title

 It came down to a winner-take-all situation Friday night at the Salem Spartan gym as Salem and Blacksburg, with identical 7-2 district records, played the regular season finale to crown the champion.

Spartan Troy Mann puts up a one-hand runner for a Salem score on his way to a game-high 26 points.
Spartan Troy Mann puts up a one-hand runner for a Salem score on his way to a game-high 26 points.

The loser would drop to third place behind 7-3 Cave Spring based on a tiebrearker format and be relegated to play an opening round  tournament game against Pulaski County Monday night, while the winner and Cave Spring earned a first-round bye.

Salem got things going in a hurry with John Repass hitting a pair of deep treys that helped stake the Spartans to a quick
8-0 lead. Blacksburg came right back to cut the deficit to 16-14 after the first quarter.

The teams stayed close throughout the second before Bruin Eric James scored at the buzzer, sending the teams to the halftime break with Salem up 31-30.

Salem got it rolling in the decisive third quarter, outscoring Blacksburg 24-10 to open a 15-point cushion. Forced to press, Blacksburg got beat time-after-time down the court for easy baskets as Salem pulled away.

“We played well at both ends of the court tonight,” Salem head coach Kevin Garst noted in the Spartan locker room afterward. “We struggled at Blacksburg earlier, but tonight we got the lead and the score dictated the play. Now, we have have to keep the momentum through the district and regional tournaments. Motivation is certainly not an issue.”

“It was one point at the half,” Blacksburg head coach Doug Day pointed out. “Then in the second half we couldn’t buy a basket. It was just one of those nights.”

“I told our guys, this isn’t the final game of the season,” Day added. “We’ll go back to work tomorrow. This group is very resilient and has a lot of perseverance. We’ll be fine.”

Troy Mann led the Salem scoring with 26 points including a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line. Alex Light added 15 points, Will Pratt 16 including four from behind the arc, with Repass knocking down 10.

Blacksburg was paced by James 16 points, with Brandon Walters getting 13, and Michael Ayares 10 for the Bruins.  

by Bill Turner

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