Last Friday in Daleville, 42 Lord Botetourt High School alumni basketball players gathered to watch the current Cavaliers, and they were treated to a 69-53 win over county rival James River. The victory, in front of the largest crowd of the season at LB thus far, concluded a sweep of the two-game intra-county series for the host Cavs.
The Knights hung tough, battling to a 13-13 tie after the first period. However, like the first meeting in Springwood, the Cavaliers wore down the Knights as the game progressed and opened a 27-20 lead at the half before outscoring River in the second half, 42-33.
“James River came ready to play on Friday night,” said LB coach Andrew Hart. “We had a really hard time stopping Sam Bell for James River. He had a great game and kept them in it. We were proud of our guys to keep battling in a great atmosphere and ultimately pull away in the fourth quarter.”
Bell finished with 30 points for game high, but LB’s Jackson Crawford wasn’t far behind with 28. Jackson hit 10 of 16 shots from the floor and seven of eight from the line to go with five assists and five steals. Tyler Meade had 16 points and Evan Bannwart had a baker’s dozen for the Cavaliers.
“We were pleased with the way we competed this time around as we showed a lot of growth in execution,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “In terms of personnel matchups LB is the toughest team on our schedule so we knew we had to play a certain way. Up until a mental lapse in the third quarter we were executing and competing the right way to give the fans a game headed to the wire. However, once you give Jackson Crawford a multi-possession lead in the fourth quarter he’s going to close the deal.”
With the win LB improved to 7-2 overall after splitting two games in the Spotswood tournament last week. The Cavaliers opened with Class 4 E.C. Glass and the Hilltoppers took a 53-44 win. Botetourt trailed just 26-24 at the half and hung tough against a solid Glass team.
“E.C. Glass was by far the best team we have faced this season,” said Hart. “They were very aggressive and it was a great challenge for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t take care of the ball well enough throughout the game to pick up the win. We did a great job battling to the end, but still came up short.”
Crawford had 23 for LB but he was the only Cavalier in double figures. Bannwart had seven rebounds and Meade had five assists.
In Thursday’s third place game the Cavs bounced back with a 69-56 win over Staunton while host Spotswood won the championship with a 63-56 win over Glass. Botetourt trailed 40-33 at the half but outscored Staunton 22-8 in the third quarter and went on to win.
“Staunton was another challenge for us in the second day of the tournament,” said Hart. “Jackson and Tyler came up big and took the game over in the second half. We were proud to have our two senior captains take control for a big victory.”
Meade finished with 26 points on 11 for 17 shooting and Crawford had 23 points and five assists. Bannwart had 11 points for LB.
James River also played last week and dropped a 67-62 game to Rockbridge in Springwood. The Knights trailed 20-12 after the first quarter as the Wildcats hit six of their first 10 three-point shots to accumulate a lead that River could not overcome.
“They came out hot,” said Humphries. “We can account for teams hitting uncharacteristic shots, but we aren’t good enough to account for easy baskets due to defensive lapses. Our guys fought but giving up 67 points will always result in a loss.”
Bell had 22 points and five assists for River. Ryan Steger had 18 points and six boards and George Toliver had nine points.
Now 7-3, the Knights will try to get back on track when they open their Three Rivers District schedule this week. River was at Floyd on Tuesday and Thursday they come home to host Glenvar.
“With all the questions we had coming into the season, if you were to tell me we’d be 7-3 to end 2022 I would take that every time,” said Humphries. “We know each game going forward in district play will require max effort and focus. We aren’t where we want to be but we like the direction we are headed.
LB is home to William Byrd on Thursday night and both the Cavaliers and James River will participate in the Chance Harman Classic this weekend. The annual event will include six games on Friday along with a three-point competition and eight games on Saturday, all at Floyd County High School. LB will play Radford at 6 p.m. Friday and James River will open Saturday play with Pulaski County at 9 a.m.