The high school basketball season got underway last week and, despite lots of masks and fewer people in the bleachers, it was still basketball after the opening toss. A socially distanced group watched Lord Botetourt beat James River last Wednesday in Daleville, 78-62.
“Other than the bench being spread out, it wasn’t much different,” said James River coach Ethan Humphries, who coached his first game for the Knights wearing a mask.
River took an early lead against LB and was up 14-9 after the first quarter. The game was tied at 27-27 at the half and LB led 49-46 after three, then pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“We were just thrilled to be back on the court,” said LB coach Andrew Hart. “We were rusty and a little sluggish to start, but we made a good run in the second half.”
Kyle Arnholt led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 10 boards. Conner Tilley had nine points and six boards for the Cavs while Logan Bramblett and Owen Prince had eight each.
For River, Patrick Clevenger had a big game with 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Knights outrebounded LB, 39-30. Heath Andrews had 10 points and seven assists, Ryan Steger had nine points and Ben Bailey had eight.
On Thursday at home the Cavaliers won again, 66-57, over visiting Pulaski County. Arnholt had 23 points and eight boards, Tilley had 15 points and eight rebounds, Bramblett had seven points and Tanner Selkirk had half a dozen.
“Pulaski was talented with some good athletes,” said Hart. “It was a good challenge for us. We battled the entire game until we could gain an edge late in the third quarter. It was great to be challenged and learn to finish off a tough opponent.”
On Monday LB improved to 3-0 with a 78-63 win at Parry McCluer. Botetourt drained 14 threes, including six by Tilley. Selkirk had 15 points and Arnholt had 12.
“We had great effort and great defensive pressure against a really solid Parry McCluer team,” said Hart.
James River picked up its first win last Thursday in Buchanan, 67-42 over Giles. It was the first win as a varsity head coach for Humphries, a River grad who was a key member of the 2010 state championship team.
“I wasn’t too pleased with the first half, but we showed up in the third quarter,” said Humphries. “You always want to see something better when you’re a coach.”
The Knights had four in double figures, including Clevenger with 18 points to go with eight boards. Steger had 13, Bailey had 11 and Isiah Moran had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jake Braun had eight rebounds.
The Knights will have their hands full this Friday when they play at Radford, annually one of the top Class 2 teams in the state.
“They’re the real deal,” said Humphries. “They’re ranked second in the state and they beat Giles 69-12. They’re super well-coached and they’ll be one of the toughest teams we’ll play.”
River is at Franklin County for a 2:30 p.m. game in Rocky Mount on Saturday. Lord Botetourt was scheduled to play at home against Franklin County on Tuesday in the only game of the week for the Cavaliers.