Call it perseverance. Call it gutting it out. Or maybe just call it a call to arms.
Six games in ten days to finish the regular season. The NBA Players Union would file a protest.
For the Cave Spring boys’ basketball team just chalk it up to another day at the office. Oh, and call it six straight wins.
Wednesday night saw the Knights’ end their regular season scheduling nightmare, partially due to snow-related makeups from earlier in the month, with a convincing 85-67 win over a very talented Blacksburg Bruin team to wrap up the regular season 22-1 and River Ridge District title at a perfect 12-0. Appropriately, the unparalleled Cave Spring student section had themed the contest in the Knight gym “Wear Your Pajamas Night.” You could make a good case the kids had it point-on; everyone was ready for a rest.
“Man, I’m tired and the guys are, too,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse emphatically noted after the win. “The guys did a tremendous job this season. Winning the district is a great accomplishment, but tomorrow morning we are 0-0.”
Wednesday night’s win followed Cave Spring’s Southwest County Rivalry sweep of Hidden Valley 24 hours earlier in a 71-30 Senior Night romp over the Titans. The Cave Spring seniors, honored in a pregame ceremony, combined for 46 points in the win. Six of the seven hit the scorebook, with every senior contributing in transition. From a pair of 3-pointers by crowd-favorite Jesse Monsour and a single long-range hit by Tyler Roche, to a slick jump hook by 6ft-3 Will Childs and hard-nosed defense by Skylor Griffiths, the senior seven led the way. The regular season home and home two-game series with the Titans favored the Knights by a whopping 97 combined points.
“Senior night is always a very special night, but a hard and emotional night for me, ” Gruse pointed out. “The players handle it better than me. I love my seniors and all my players like my own. Selfishly, I want to keep them forever.”
Cave Spring’s game plan comes from every direction. First and foremost, an intense swarming defense that suffocates an opponent’s offensive sets, plus their two bigs, 6ft-5 senior Bryce Cooper and 6-8 junior Dylan Saunders, both of whom make a trip into the paint a nightmare for the opposition. Add to that a veritable murderers’ row of scorers led by senior Owyn Dawyot along with Saunders and fellow-junior sensation Stark Jones. Wednesday night that trio combined for 62 points against the Bruins, with Dawyot leading the way with 27. Jones and Saunders followed with 18 and 17 points, respectfully. Junior point guard Graham Lilley, who had 11 points of his own including a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe, provides the glue, while Cooper (8 points) applies the clamp.
“That trio were really good tonight,” Gruse said. “They play really well off each other and compliment each other so well.”
Dawyot reflected on the team’s success Wednesday night and the brutal stretch of games.
“It was a tough stretch and it’s been a great regular season. It all about staying focused and having energy. As a team, we’re focused on coming out of the gate strong. This entire team has great chemistry and plays together well to find the open looks.”
As for his scoring prowess, Dawyot added, “My teammates have really set me up with passes.”
“He’s really playing confident right now,” Gruse said of Dawyot. “I’m proud of his effort on both ends of the court.”
The Knights have embraced the team concept, and sharing the ball is one of the keys.
Now, the postseason begins with Cave Spring opening the district tournament at home Friday night against Pulaski County. Once regional play begins, the Knights have the luxury of knowing as long as the winning continues, Cave Spring will host every game on the Knight hardwood until the state championship game plays out in Richmond in mid-March.
“Have to continue to do what we do,” Gruse matter-of-factly notes.
And, as for the Pajama Party Cave Spring student section, Dawyot summed it up best.
“I love it, we all love it. The student section is absolutely awesome. They’re wild and they’re loud. They definitely add quite a few points in our favor at the end of the night.”