Cave Spring Girls, Boys Sweep Regional Openers Against Blue Demons

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Cave Spring sophomore guard Katie Carroll (#20) looks on as Ava Hibbs scores for the Lady Knights last week. Tuesday night, Carroll led the Lady Knights with a game-high 24 points in the Region 3D quarterfinal win. (Rhonda Ihlenburg file photos).
The first tournament games in the newly remodeled Cave Spring High School gym played out Tuesday night in Southwest Roanoke County.
It would be hard to argue the Knights’ girls’ and boys’ teams made the debut anything but a rousing success.
In a rare girls-boys Region 3D quarterfinal doubleheader against their counterparts from Christiansburg, the Lady Knights rolled to a convincing 68-25 win over the Blue Demons, while the Cave Spring boys followed with the likewise dominating 61-37 victory.
The No. 1-seed Lady Knights move on to play 4-seed Lord Botetourt Thursday night at Cave Spring, while the No. 4-seed Knight boys travel to far-Southwest Virginia on Thursday to face No. 1-seed Abingdon on the Falcons’ home court.
The girl’s opener Tuesday night began with a fast start for the Lady Knights against a team who had only won one game all season, that being the previous night in a play-in game against a Bassett squad who was playing its first game of the year due to COVID-19 shutdown.
Cave Spring (8-1 on the season) led 19-6 after the opening quarter and 29-14 heading to the halftime break.
When Christiansburg’s Hannah Altizer scored on a 3-pointer to start the third quarter that cut the Cave Spring advantage to 12 points, the Blue Demons were still in the game. But the Lady Knights went on a scoring blitz, led by three straight bombs from behind-the-arc by sophomore guard Katie Carroll, a pair of scores in close by Appalachian State signee Zada Porter and another basket by Carroll, who finished with a game-high 24 points.
By the time the damage was done, the Knights outscored the visitors 30-5 the rest of the third quarter to put things decisively out of reach, 59-22, heading to the final 8 minutes.
Cave Spring pushed their lead to 45 points midway through the fourth before settling on the final 43-point margin. Porter finished with 19 points, with sophomores Abby Smith and Rachael Anderson adding 11 and 8 points, respectfully. Carroll’s 24 points included 6 of the 10 Cave Spring hits from long range.
Altizer led the Blue Demons with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, with Maakya Sherman chipping in 7 points for Christiansburg.
“It was definitely my career high in scoring,” Carroll noted after the game. “Coach Ficarro told us to play our game and be aggressive. I like shooting 3s and practice the shot a lot. Everyone on this team can score and tries to look for the best shooters.”
“Defense kept us in the game, then we got our offense going by making the extra pass,” Ficarro pointed out. “Now, we move on, but it doesn’t get easier.”
In the boys’ nightcap, the Knights came through in similar fashion by using an overwhelming second quarter performance at both ends of the court to put Christiansburg in a hole it couldn’t escape.
Cave Spring shrugged off a quick Christiansburg 5-point lead to pick up the pace and finish on an 18-11 run, capped off by senior Charlie Urgo’s 3-pointer, to lead 18-16 after one quarter.
Cave Spring’s Bryce Cooper scores for the Knights in last week’s regular season finale as sophomore Stark Jones (#14) looks on. Tuesday night, Cooper led Cave Spring with a game-high 17 points and Jones added 15 in their Region 3D win. (Rhonda Ihlenburg file photos).

The Knights kept the pedal down in the second frame, using a swarming defense, ruling the boards on both ends and putting the Christiansburg defense in the spin cycle with its execution of a motion offense that resulted in open cuts and kick-out jumpers. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Cave Spring had outscored the Blue Demons 18-1 in the second frame to take control with the 36-17 lead. Junior Bryce Cooper had 13 points at the break, Urgo had netted 12, and senior Jacob Tozier had come off the bench to bury a pair of long-range 3-pointers.

“We only gave up one point in the second quarter and I was very pleased with the effort and focus,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted afterward. “We wanted to make Christiansburg work against our sets and try to make them defend us in the half court.”
With the Blue Demons keying on Cooper and Urgo, sophomore sensation Stark Jones came to life in the third quarter to help push the Cave Spring advantage to 53-29 heading to the final 8 minutes. The two teams played to an 8-8 draw in the fourth, with the reserves of both teams coming off the bench to pace the action.
Cooper finished with a game-high 17 points for Cave Spring, with Jones canning 15, Urgo netting 12 and Tozier chipping in 8.
Gruse commented on the trend of having different players step up each game to lead the Knights’ scoring.
“We have to do it by committee every night for us to be successful. Our guys have bought into that.”
Matt Simmons led the Blue Demons with a team-high 10 points, with Tyrique Taylor adding 9 and M.J. Hunter scoring 6 points for Christiansburg.
Cave Spring advances to take on a one-loss Abingdon team that dispatched Hidden Valley Tuesday night in Abingdon, 83-36.
“Abingdon is really good and the No. 1-seed for a reason,” Gruse pointed out. “They have two really good guards and a 6’10 center.”
On the other side of the Region 3D bracket Tuesday night, Lord Botetourt ran away with an 86-46 win over Carroll County, and Northside knocked off William Byrd 68-36.
Bill Turner