Quick quiz for perspective magicians: How do you pull a rabbit out of a hat? How do you make a scoreboard deficit disappear and turn into a 21-point rout in the span of eight minutes?
For the rabbit, refer to the magician’s handbook. For the latter, you only needed to be present Tuesday night in the Cave Spring gym.
Rallying in the most stunning fashion imaginable, the Cave Spring boys’ basketball team flipped a 3-point deficit against the William Byrd Terriers heading to the fourth quarter with a 24-0 domination down the stretch for the 64-43 Region 3D quarterfinal win.
The Knights (24-1) advance to take on Abingdon Thursday night in what will be a rematch of last year’s regional game in which the Falcons ended Cave Spring’s season in Abingdon. This time around, the Falcons must make the long trip up I-81 to have their nerves tested in the raucous Cave Castle.
For 24 minutes Tuesday night, Byrd looked poised to pull off the major upset. The Terriers scored the first five points and led 11-8 after the first quarter. With Cave Spring struggling on both ends, the Byrd advantage increased to 31-24 heading to the halftime break.
“I’m not sure if it was nerves or being too excited to play,” Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse noted after the dust had settled. “It could have been the week layoff since we last played.”
So, what was the message during the halftime break?
“Just take a deep breath,” Gruse said he told his squad. “Relax and play Cave Spring basketball.”
Byrd kept coming and pushed their lead to nine, 38-29, midway through the third before the Knights rode the hot-shooting of 6 ft-7 junior Dylan Saunders who netted nine straight points to help cut the Cave Spring deficit to 43-40 heading to the final 8 minutes.
Unfortunately, for the Terriers, the wheels were about to come off the tracks. Saddled with foul trouble and no time outs, the Knights were ready to pounce.
“I knew once we could take the lead and start rolling, the snowball would start going,” Gruse pointed out. “Momentum is a crazy thing . . . Our players knew it was go-time. Give credit to our fans for really encouraging us as well. They were our 6th man and we needed them.”
Owyn Dawyot opened the fourth quarter with a pair of long-range bombs and a breakaway layup off a steal. Fellow senior Bryce Cooper followed with three straight scores down low to suddenly push the Knight lead to eleven, 54-43, and send the Cave Spring student section into a madhouse of mayhem.
“We were not going out like that,” Cooper said afterward of the dramatic Knight rally. “We’ve got bigger things ahead. We started playing very good defense in the fourth quarter and that set up the offense.”
Dawyot finished with a game-high 20 points, with Saunders adding 18 and Cooper rising to the occasion with 17. Dawyot hit from behind-the-arc for four of Cave Spring’s six treys.,
“Incredible 24-0 run in the fourth quarter,” Gruse noted. “Amazing. Those three guys were huge. As always, we need different guys to step up each and every night. Great atmosphere at home tonight and we need them all back here Thursday at 6 as we take on Abingdon.”
Byrd was led by senior Camden Richardson’s 18 points, including a pair of hits from behind-the-arc and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Senior Ethan Hairston followed with 10 points including two from long range, with Trevor Ruble netting 9 points on a trio of treys.
Byrd gave it a great shot. And, at the end of the night everyone knew the Terriers had been there.