The Cave Spring boys basketball team roared out of the gate Tuesday night at the Salem Civic Center.
By the time Central- Woodstock got the gate closed, the Knight horses had a stampede well under way.
Rolling out to a 19-point lead early in the second quarter, Cave Spring had just what it needed to hold off the Falcons down the stretch to secure the Class 3 state semifinal win, 64-53.
The Knights (27-2) punched their ticket to the Class 3 state final set for 8 p.m. Friday night at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond where they will play the Lakeland Cavaliers (Suffolk), a 43-35 winner over Western Albemarle on Tuesday night.
Cave Spring entered Friday’s game up against a Falcon team with ten seniors, prolific outside shooting and leading scorer 6-8 Dominic Strother, who was averaging over 22 points game.
The Knights used their pair of 6-8 bigmen, Parker Huffman and Matt Cagle, to bump Strother around in the early going, just enough to get Strother’s game off stride. The rest of the Falcons also struggled from the field at the start from a swarming Knight defense at the perimeter.
“Matt and Parker did a great job on Strother,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted. “He is a heck of a player.”
On the other end the Knights had the offense clicking, and Cave Spring kept the scoreboard moving. Cagle, Huffman and senior guard Adnan Jasarevic jumped started the Knights to a quick 18-2 lead. Cave Spring led 22-7 after the first eight minutes and pushed their advantage to 26-7 just over a minute into the second.
“We have to get off to a great start,” Gruse said. “We can’t wait for them to get going before we start. We needed every bit of it.”
Woodstock was forced to call two early timeouts to make adjustments, and the Falcons finally got hot from long distance to go on a 16-2 run, cutting their deficit to 5. The Knights closed the first half on a 6-3 run to go to the break up eight, 34-26.
Cave Spring picked its spots in the third, with Jasarevic and junior Reed Pendleton hitting from long range to set the stage for a 48-33 Knight lead heading to the final 8 minutes.
The Falcons had one final run in the fourth quarter to cut the Cave Spring lead to 8 points, 54-46, as Strother moved to the perimeter and suddenly scored 10, but the Knights held the ball with a terrific motion offense and hit their free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
It was another balanced scoring night for Cave Spring, as Jasarevic scored 18 points, Pendleton added 13, with Huffman and Cagle canning 10 apiece.The Knights had five 3-pointers, including a trio from Jasarevic and one each from Pendleton and Charlie Urgo. Cave Spring was 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
“We have to continue to get that balance,” Gruse added. “Different guys stepping up on different nights.”
Central Woodstock was paced by Strother’s 18 points, with Kelan Hoover and Dylan Hamrick each netting 10 and Alex Neff chipping in 9. The Falcons hit 10 times from behind-the-arc and were 5 of 10 from the charity stripe.
Now, on to the big stage Friday night for the Knights.
“I’ve coached in one state championship when I was at Dan River,” Gruse pointed out. “I’ll rely on that experience. Our team has played multiple state games. We just have to stay consistent and routine.”
For the Knights, it’s all hands on deck and full steam ahead.