The seven-team River Ridge District spans 60 miles from Roanoke to Pulaski County.
The girls and boys basketball tournament championship trophies will be sitting only feet apart in the Hidden Valley trophy case.
Rising to the occasion in their respective fourth quarters, the girls and boys Titans won back-to-back championship games Tuesday night at Salem High School.
With all four teams in the finals already locked in regional playoff spots, it was bragging rights and little else that were on the line.
In the girls opener, Cave Spring came in with a winning record while Hidden Valley had the mirror image 9-14 losing mark. But, it was the Titans who came out of the gate strong on its way to the 54-36 win.
Cave Spring was playing without freshman Zada Porter who exited early in the contest with a bout with the flu, and the absence of the Knights’ floor leader reared its head.
Cave Spring fought a rash off first half turnovers as Hidden Valley led 11-6 after one quarter. The Titans pushed their lead to 21-7 midway through the second frame before Cave Spring’s Reagan Delp righted the Cave Spring cause late in the quarter that sent the teams to the halftime break with Hidden Valley up 27-13.
The Knights halved their 14-point deficit by the end of the third quarter, with the Titans up 34-27. Cave Spring got to within 4, at 38-34 with just under six minutes remaining in the final frame, but Hidden Valley went on a 16-0 run that finally ended when Cave Spring’s Elizabeth Hertzberg scored with 50 seconds left. Those would prove to be the last points of the game.
Senior captain Jordyn Sadler had a game-high 18 points for Hidden Valley, while junior captain Sawyer Freeland added 11 and senior captain Meredith Smith finished with 9. Sophomore Taylor Robertson led Cave Spring with 8 points, with Hertzberg and Kierra Mooney each netting 7 to go with Delp’s 6.
“We came in with a lot of energy,” Sadler said after the win. “We’ve been the underdogs all year. There was some concern when Cave Spring cut our lead to four, but we really wanted it bad down then stretch.”
“I’ve told the girls you want to be good in February and March and they bought into it,” Titan head coach Randy Bush noted. “Our game plan was simple-score more points than them. We want to use this to catapult into the regions. As far as Cave making a run, we knew it would happen. But, if you don’t panic, good things happen.”
In the boys nightcap, Hidden Valley outscored Patrick Henry 19-10 in the final quarter to come away with the 39-31 victory. The win added to the River Ridge regular-season title for the Titans, and the 3-game season sweep over the Patriots.
In the expected physical matchup, the teams battled to an 8-8 stalemate after one quarter before PH looked ready to take control after they held the Titans to only one point in the second frame. Patriot Noah Woody got things going to start the second period with a rainbow 3-pointer and a pair of free throws that led the way to a 16-8 PH lead. Hidden Valley big-man Jonah Fitzgerald scored the only Titan point on a free throw with 1:26 left in the half before Patrick Henry dribbled out the frame to head to the break up 16-9.
Hidden Valley opened the third quarter with a 11-3 run capped off by a pair of Fitzgerald free throws and a basket by Andrew Duncan that put the Titans up 20-19. Patriot Tee Bryan finished the third quarter with two from the charity stripe, sending the game to the final 8 minutes with PH up 21-20.
Titan Noah Lichtenstein opened the fourth quarter scoring on a long jumper and Hidden Valley was back on top for good. Patriot Quincy Hamlet hit from behind-the-arc to get PH to within one at 27-26, and Patrick Henry would score with 1:41 left to close to 32-31, but Hidden Valley scored the final 8 points to seal the win.
“This was a huge win for us,” Fitzgerald, who had a game-high 16 points, said after the post-game celebration. “The game was really physical. In the second half we got some good looks and broke their rhythm. And, we made our free throws down the stretch.”
“It’s always a dogfight with Patrick Henry,” Hidden Valley head coach Kevin Burcham noted. “We only had 9 points in the first half, but we were still in the game. We were rebounding and playing good defense, we just needed some shots to fall. I credit our kids for battling, being gutsy and responding.”
Noah Lichtenstein followed Fitzgerald with 8 points for Hidden Valley. Woody paced Patrick Henry with 14 points, with Hamlet adding 8.