Synonyms: bedlam, chaos, mayhem, commotion.
Take your pick and it set the scene Friday night as Cave Spring stunned the Spotswood Trailblazers 56-54 in the State Class 3 quarterfinal at East Rockingham High School in Elkton.
Junior Jalen Buster pulled off the unthinkable after a missed free throw was tipped, pushed and shuffled to him just outside the 3-point arc. Buster launched a desperation jumper that took the long route to the twine as the buzzer sounded, hitting the front rim, caroming off the backboard and dancing around the iron a few more times before falling through.
The official immediately raised both arms. That’s all she wrote, Spotswood was broke. Katie bar the door.
Buster looped around the court with his teammates in hot pursuit. Soon, the cheerleaders and Cave Spring fans joined in before the mop-headed guard was corralled at the opposite end. Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse looked like a windmill in a tornado as he and his coaching staff celebrated.
Rarely has a game’s conclusion fallen the way this one played out in the final seconds.
The Knights were down 54-51 with 4.6 seconds left when senior Crawford Enyart went to the line for three free throws. Cave Spring had just missed from long-range and Enyart had somehow tracked down the long rebound in the corner and was fouled as he put up a trey of his own.
Enyart sank the first two and Spotswood head coach Chad Edwards called timeout to ice Cave Spring’s top free throw shooter on the third. Depending on your perspective, the strategy worked or backfired at the same time.
The third try from the charity stripe hit off the back rim and was tipped by junior Parker Huffman, stationed between two Trailblazers on the left side of the lane. Huffman directed the ball to senior Jeremiah Rosarion who had been on the right side. Rosarion took one dribble, shuffled the ball back out to Buster, who let it fly.
“Unbelievable,” Gruse noted after the game. “Huffman, Rosarion and Buster all had a part in setting up the winning shot. Three guys who didn’t panic. And, such a big time shot by Jalen. I’m so proud of him.”
“Spotswood was a really good team,” Gruse added. “It was a great high school basketball game.”
Cave Spring started strong and led 17-12 after the first quarter when senior guard Nick Mills got the buzzer-beater routine in gear with a trey of his own.
The teams were tied at 25 at the halftime break, with Buster already in the books with 10 points.
Spotswood went up by 5, 30-25, on a 3-pointer by Elijah Mushagasha to open the second half, but Cave Spring’s defense stepped up and when Rosarion completed an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:54 left in the third, the Knights led 35-34. The game headed to the final 8 minutes with Cave Spring holding the narrow 40-38 lead.
“Our transition defense was huge for us tonight,” Gruse pointed out. “It was really good in the second half.”
Things were tied at 46 with 2:31 left and the Trailblazers led 48-46 twenty-eight seconds later before Huffman tied the game at 48 on a short jumper with 1:33 to go.
Spotswood looked to be in the driver’s seat when it went up 53-48 with 35.9 seconds to go, but Buster was just warming up from behind-the-arc when he hit from long-range to cut the Knight deficit to 53-51 twelve seconds later.
The Knights fouled Mushagasha with 18 seconds to go, and after the senior hit one-of-two for the 54-51 Trailblazer edge, Enyart and Buster, with plenty of help from Huffman and Rosarion, closed the deal.
Buster finished with a team-high 17 points for Cave Spring, including 3 of the Knights’ 6 treys, while Enyart added 14 points and Huffman netted 12.
Angel Pacheco-Ortiz had a game-high 18 points for Spotswood, with Mushagasha and Kaleb Strawderman each chipping in 13 for the Trailblazers.
The win earns Cave Spring the chance to face Northside on Tuesday night with a trip to the state final at VCU on the line Thursday afternoon in Richmond.