In political circles, early polling doesn’t guarantee final results.
That was similarly the case Thursday night in the Hidden Valley High School gym as the Cave Spring boys basketball team dusted off an early Lord Botetourt lead to dominate down the stretch for the 67-44 Class 3 Regional semifinal win. The Knights guaranteed themselves a spot in the Class 3 State Tournament for the second straight year with the win.
Saturday night, the Regional final between Cave Spring and Northside will return to Hidden Valley for a 6PM tipoff where the winner will host a state quarterfinal next week, with the loser having to open state tournament play on the road.
Thursday night, with Cave Spring the decided favorite after beating Botetourt three times in the regular season, twice by 11 and once by 30, it was Botetourt that came out strong. The Cavs were hot from the field in the first quarter before taking a 15-10 lead after the first 8 minutes.
“We knew Botetourt would come out tough,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted after the game. “They shot it really well and we expected that. We just had to settle in.”
A hot hand by Cave Spring junior Reed Pendleton kept the Knights close in the second quarter. With the game knotted at 26 late in the half, the Knights closed on a 5-1 run to get its first cushion and take a 31-27 lead to the halftime break.
“That was a huge momentum turn for us,” Gruse pointed out. “I thought Botetourt threw a great punch and we responded. Big to go to the locker room with the lead.”
Cave Spring opened the second half with a score and the potent Knight offense and swarming defense put the pedal down. Outscoring the Cavaliers 19-7 in the third, Cave Spring had turned the 26-26 tie late in the second to a commanding 50-34 lead heading to the final 8 minutes.
“We just had to get back to being us,” Gruse said. “Had to get back to defending and our tempo had to change.”
Leading the way for the Knight’s onslaught was point guard Jalen Buster, who kept the up-tempo game in high gear. Buster picked his spots for 12 points on the night, while Pendleton ended with a game-high 26 points. With senior guard Adnan Jasarevic adding 10 points and senior 6-7 center Matt Cagle punching down 7 and grabbing 9 boards, the early tease by the Cavaliers turned into a disappointment for the Cavs in the loser goes home outcome.
“Reed was on fire in the first half and Jalen controlled the game,” Gruse noted. “I thought Lucas (Duncan) was so tough and Matt played well, too.”
Cave Spring pushed its lead to 23 points in the fourth and the game got chippy down the stretch.
“Intense game for sure,” Gruse acknowledged. “We had to settle the troops. The game was heated, the way a win or go home game should be. Just didn’t want anyone to get too heated, so we had to call a timeout to get our guy’s attention.”
Lord Botetourt, which finished with a winning 14-12 record, was led by 6-4 junior Kyle Arnholt’s 18 points, with sophomore Owen Prince canning 9.