Buster Free Throws Push Cave Spring Past Hidden Valley 51-47

Cave Spring sophomore Matt Cagle skies for a shot over the Hidden Valley defense in the second half as the Knights topped the Titans 51-47. (Kaylee Maynard photo)

Cave Spring versus Hidden Valley basketball. You can typically throw the record books out the window; you can typically count on a tight game.

Tuesday night in the Cave Spring gym, Cave Spring sophomore Jalen Buster made sure the Knights had the extra wiggle room down the stretch as the Knights pulled out the 51-47 win.

Buster’s two free throws with 22 seconds left staked the Knights to a four-point advantage, and the two-possession lead held up as Hidden Valley couldn’t find the net in a string of desperation shots from long range before the buzzer.

The win improved Cave Spring’s record in the River Ridge to 4-1 (8-6 overall), while Hidden Valley suffered its first district loss, moving to 5-1 (11-4 overall).

It was nip and tuck for most of the first half that saw Cave Spring lead by 4 after one period and Hidden Valley close to within 23-22 heading to the halftime break.

Hidden Valley sharpshooter Jonah Fitzgerald, who finished with a game-high 20 points, looked to be in a groove early, hitting twice from behind-the-arc after notching his 1,000th career point on the Titans’ first possession. Fitzgerald had 12 of Hidden Valley’s 22 points in the opening half.

But, Cave Spring made adjustments on the coverage of Fitzgerald to start the second half, and the Knights rode the inside scoring of junior Crawford Enyart and sophomore Matt Cagle to eventually push its lead to nine points in the fourth quarter.

But, like a Hollywood script for a CS-HV showdown, back came the Titans to close to within two and have possession, with a chance to tie or take the lead in the last 30 seconds. Cave Spring, however, got an inertia assist when Titan guard Noah Lichtenstein’s driving layup rode the rim’s entire circumference before falling off, leading to Buster’s clinching trip to the line.

Hidden Valley senior guard Cole Cundiff was the driving force in the late Titan comeback, scoring 8 points down the stretch. Cundiff finished with 12 points on the night. Twice in that same span, Cave Spring answered, first on an Enyart steal near mid-court that he converted into a layup giving the Knights a 6-point lead with 2:30 left, and an Enyart tip-in that opened a 49-44 Knight advantage with a minute left. Enyart finished with a ream-high 19, with Cagle and senior Mookie Beckner each scoring 9.

Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted afterward that it was a big win for the Knights.

“Really proud of our effort,” Gruse said. “We were locked in mentally and physically. Couldn’t be happier for Crawford. He plays like a man and gives us that edge physically.”

And, the key free throws by Buster in the final moments?

“Jalen was huge,” Gruse pointed out. “A ton pf pressure and he delivered. I had 100% confidence in him.”

Bill Turner

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