You can depend on several constants when Cave Spring and Salem High School hook up in high school basketball. Intense competition, close games, huge crowds and well coached teams with talented players lead the list. That was the case Saturday night in the Hidden Valley High School gym, another designated temporary home court for Cave Spring, as the construction on their high school continues two miles away.
Cave Spring shook off a strong jump out of the gate by the Spartans to put on a showcase third quarter on their way to the 71-58 River Ridge win. The Knights improved to 18-2 on the season (8-2 River Ridge) and locked up the second seed in the River Ridge District tournament, whose Final-4 will play out on the same Hidden Valley court in two weeks.
Saturday night it was obvious Salem came to play. The Spartans, red hot from behind-the-arc to start the game, jumped out to a quick 11-point lead, 16-5, before the Knights made some adjustments to go on a 7-0 run the end the quarter and close to within 16-12.
“They came out hot,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted after the game.”We knew we would get their best shot. Salem is a really good team.”
The Knights kept scrapping and finally tied the score at 30 in the final minute of the half before Salem got loose for a score and foul in the final seconds to go to the halftime break up 33-30.
“Should have been tied at half,” Gruse pointed out. “We didn’t communicate well at the end of the half. Just had to trust the game plan and execute.”
The packed house settled in for what they knew would be a typical Cave Spring-Salem barnburner in the second half, and the Knights came out of the locker room holding the torch.
Cave Spring got its offense rolling and the Knight defense complimented the effort, outscoring the Spartans 19-5 in the third quarter. Down-3 to up-11 in 8 minutes of play.
“It was a total team effort to start the third,” Gruse said. “We got great minutes from our bench, and got consecutive stops from the defense. Plus, we shared the ball really well.”
Nobody was more dominant during that third quarter stretch than senior Lucas Duncan, the Cave Spring football quarterback who will walk on at Virginia Tech. Duncan took control at both ends, driving to the basket and cleaning up rebounds with authority on both boards.
“Lucas has been big,” Gruse noted. “Such a great young man on and off the court. He brings a toughness to our team. A really gritty, junk yard dog mentality.”
The game got chippy in the fourth quarter as Cave Spring’s lead approached 20 points, including the game being stopped when security officials were summoned to dish out warnings to a Salem fan who had a different perspective on the referee’s calls. Things resumed without further incident and Cave Spring enjoyed the luxury of playing every player in the last two minutes before the final 13-point margin.
Cave Spring was led by junior Reed Pendleton, who finished with a game-high 23 points including 18 in the decisive second half. Senior Adnan Jasarevic poured in 11, with three hits from behind-the-arc and Charlie Urgo canned 10 for the Knights.
The Spartans has three players in double figures, including 16 from Alex Blanchard, 11 from Nick Owen and 10 from Ethan English.
Cave Spring wraps up its regular season with a pair of games this week; Tuesday night’s Senior Night at the Cave Spring Middle School gym against Pulaski County, followed by the finale on this same Hidden Valley court Thursday night against the Titans.
“Just have to stay focused on who we are and what we do,” Gruse pointed out. “Pulaski and Hidden Valley will be gunning for us for sure.”