Cave Spring’s Matt Cagle hits a jumper on his way to a game-high 14 points and being named tournament Most Valuable Player in the Knights’ 52-46 win. (photo by Rhonda Ihlenburg, special to The Star).

Little house, big house.

That was the roadmap for the Cave Spring Knights Saturday afternoon in the Lea’s Winter Classic’s “Southwest Virginia County Cup” championship at the Berglund Center.

Less than 72 hours after easily dispatching Christiansburg inside the bandbox gym at Cave Spring Middle School, the Knights were playing their subsequent home game at the 10,500 seat Berglund Center against rival Hidden Valley, who entered the matchup with a 3-9 record.

Although Cave Spring pulled out the 52-46 win, the path to victory was a significantly more slippery path. Literally, more slippery.

With the Berglund hardwood placed over the ice set for Rail Yard Dawgs hockey, both teams had to navigate over treacherous lanes and wet spots that resulted in falls, walking calls, turnovers and tentative play, although fortunately for both squads, no injuries.

That condition, combined with the challenges from depth perception adjustments in a huge coliseum, played havoc with 3-point shooting by both teams. Cave Spring, which banged home nine treys Wednesday night, could only find the net twice from long range, the same count as the Titans. Add to that a noon tipoff, not a typical starting time for high school basketball.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well, and maybe the venue had something to do with that,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted afterward. On one occasion in the second half, Gruse himself was mopping the moisture off the court.

The opening quarter had the makings of a runaway by the Knights after they jumped out to a 21-10 lead. Hidden Valley faired better in the second and went to the halftime break trailing 33-21.

Knight senior guard Jalen Buster drives past Hidden Valley’s Grayson Carroll in the Lea’s Winter Classic Saturday afternoon. (Rhonda Ihlenburg photo).

The Titans made things interesting in the third, finding seams in the Cave Spring defense and outscoring the Knights 15-6 to head to the final 8 minutes trailing 39-36.

Hidden Valley scored the first 4 points of the fourth quarter, the second two coming off a breakaway layup by Jacob Nichols that had flipped the score by 15 points and put the Titans up 40-39.

Game was on in typical Southwest County rivalry style.

Cave Spring answered down the stretch, finishing with a 13-6 run that included 6 clutch points by 6-7 senior Matt Cagle, leading to his game-high 14 points that was just the finish needed to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player trophy.

“I think it was good for us to face some adversity,” Gruse added. “We responded and found a way to win. I love that Matt was the MVP. It was well deserved and he worked hard for it.” Cave Spring improved to 11-0 on the season.

Complimenting Cagle’s scoring were double-digit performances by Reed Pendleton and Parker Huffman, with 12 each, along with 10 points from Adnan Jasarevic.

Hidden Valley was led by Manu Singh’s 11 points, with Grayson Carroll adding 9 and Nichols netting 8.

In other Winter Classic action Saturday, Michael Mack poured in 19 points and Zae Baines added 16 as North Cross topped Roanoke Catholic 65-50 for the private school title. Dillon Porter led Catholic with 15.

In the Girl’s Mayor’s Cup, William Fleming, led by Shakara Anderson’s 20 points and 14 from Lanie Bethel, defeated cross-city rival Patrick Henry 50-39. Savannah Derey and Moneshia Wright each poured in 13 points for the Patriots.

In game-4 of the Mayor’s Cup boys, the game was stopped due to treacherous floor conditions and will be resumed at a later date.

Bill Turner