Tuesday morning was icing on the cake for the Cave Spring Knights boys basketball state championship team.
Three Cave Spring players were awarded spots on the VHSL Class 3 All-State First or Second Teams, along with the Class 3 Player of the Year and Class 3 Coach of the Year.
Eight players from the Class 3 ranks throughout the state are selected to each of the elite lists, along with a Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, by an eight member selection panel made up of coaches.
Knights’ 6-foot senior floor leader Jalen Buster was named to the First Team All-State squad and got an extra bonus after being tapped as Class 3 Player of the Year.
A pair of Cave Spring starters, 6-8 senior Parker Huffman and 6-1 junior guard Reed Pendleton, made Second Team All-State, giving the Knights three of the sixteen possible selections.
Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse rounded out the Cave Spring bonanza after he was chosen Class 3 Coach of the Year. Gruse came to Cave Spring in 2014 and last year led the Knights to the state semifinals before being knocked off by eventual 2019 state champs, the Northside Vikings.
With five seniors returning for the 2019-20 campaign and a strong bench, expectations were high, and the Cave Spring players and coaching staff delivered.
The team finished 27-2, surpassing the all-time win totals in the history of the school that dates back to the 1950s. That included the previous state championship teams from 2002, 2009 and 2010 with the likes of J.J. Redick, Josh Henderson, Clay Lacy and Greg Mackey.
The Knights, after finishing second to Class 5 Patrick Henry in the River Ridge regular season, finished with a flurry, capturing the River Ridge Tournament final over the Patriots and winning the Region 3D championship over the Northside Vikings, before knocking off Liberty Christian in the Class 3 state quarterfinals at Roanoke College’s Cregger Center and Central-Woodstock in the state semifinal round at the Salem Civic Center.
The state final, scheduled for Friday, March 13 at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond against the Lakeland Cavaliers, was abruptly cancelled by the VHSL due to the heightening COVID-19 crisis. The Knights were ready to board the bus for Richmond the day before the title game when the devastating announcement came down, leaving Cave Spring being named state champions along with Lakeland.
“I’m so proud of all three of our guys,” Gruse noted Tuesday morning after the official announcement. “It was very well deserved. They have worked so hard and I’m happy to see them get recognized for their efforts. This is big for them and our program. I believe Jalen is the third player in Cave Spring basketball history to be named Player of the Year.”
Gruse was giving credit to others after his selection as Coach of the Year.
“Coach of the Year…..it’s because I had a great staff and great players. I owe it all to them.”
Buster was doling out plenty of praises after the morning news release.
“I am at a loss of words,” the senior said. “I want to thank my coaches, friends and family for putting me in this position. And, my teammates especially, because they were the ones that pushed me every single day during practices. They always had my back. But, this is honestly a dream come true. All the awards and stuff in my eyes are a team award. I wouldn’t have gotten these awards without my team by my side.”
Huffman was relishing in his selection to the All-State team for the second straight year.
“It feels amazing to be named Second Team All-State in back-to-back years,” the Christopher Newport signee noted Tuesday. “All the hard work paid off! Everyone from Cave Spring on the All-State teams were great players and teammates the whole year. This wouldn’t be possible without my great teammates and coaches.”
Pendleton, who is expected to be one of the top players in the state next year with his uncanny shot making from all points on the court, echoed his teammates excitement.
“I’m really excited to be chosen All-State. It’s a real honor. Now, we just need to celebrate when the time comes with a great banquet and our championship rings. It’s been a great season.”