Cave Spring boys’ basketball coach Jacob Gruse emphasized to his team the importance of coming out of the gate strong Tuesday night in the Patrick Henry gym.
Little did he expect that the Knights would look more akin to a rocket blasting off.
Riding a first half dominance on both ends of the court, Cave Spring jumped out to leads of 20-8 after the first quarter and commanding 36-12 advantage heading to the halftime break on their way to the convincing 63-54 win over the Patriots. While the final score showed a nine-point separation, the game was far from close until Patrick Henry made a valiant run in the final 8 minutes that was definitely too-little, too-late.
Patrick Henry, whose deficit nearly reached 30 points midway through the third quarter, finished with a strong offensive showing in the final frame where they scored 28 points, more than their point total in the three previous quarters combined.
“The strong, fast start was huge for us,” Gruse noted after the win. “We couldn’t have scripted a better start. We knew we needed a hot start because PH is a really good basketball team.”
“In the first half we had some good defensive stops. We had steals and moved the ball well. Our offense went inside to get us points in the paint, plus we held them to 12 and outrebounded them 21-6 and then we got our shot.”
‘If we feel good about having an advantage inside, we’re going to push it inside. If we feel we have an advantage outside, we’ll shoot from out there.”
With 6-5 Bryce Cooper and 6-7 Dylan Saunders handling the paint, and a quartet of long-range sharpshooters like Stark Jones, Owyn Dawyot, Graham Lilley and Bays Bryant complimenting the offensive attack, the Knight’s options are endless.
“It has to be next man up all year,” Gruse added. “Bryce Cooper really stepped-up big tonight. He’s always a great rebounder and defender, but he also had a strong offensive game tonight. Bryce leads by example.”
Cooper had a game-high 17 points for the Knights and brought down 10 rebounds. Lilley followed a career-high 21 points last Thursday night against Glenvar with 14 points. Dawyot knocked down 12 points for the Knights.
Sophomore Abu Yarmah had a team-high 16 points for the Patriots and claimed 12 rebounds. Junior Brooks Derey followed with 14 points, while Moosie Calloway canned 10 points for PH.
Patrick Henry clawed its way back in the fourth, and got their deficit to 9 points before Bryant hit from behind-the-arc to restore the double-digit Knight lead with the clutch dagger that took a lot of air out of the Patriot comeback attempt.
“Bays had great minutes for un tonight,” Gruse said. “We have so much confidence in him. As he let it go (the late 3-pointer) I was yelling ‘get back’ because I knew it was in.”
Cave Spring improved to 9-1 (3-0 River Ridge District), while PH fell to 8-2 (3-1 River Ridge).
PH returns to action Thursday night in the Patriot gym where it takes on cross-city rival William Fleming. Next up for Cave Spring is a Friday night game against Salem at Cave Spring.