Coronavirus cancels VHSL championship game
The Lord Botetourt girls have won a second state basketball championship in three years. It wasn’t exactly how they planned it, but it will have to do.The Cavaliers were scheduled to play Spotswood for the Class 3 state championship last Friday at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a highly anticipated game, as the 25-3 Cavaliers were state champs in 2018 and 27-2 Spotswood won the state championship last year, having beaten Lord Botetourt in the semifinal by five points. Friday’s game was the one everyone was looking forward to.
Botetourt was on a role. The Cavaliers won their four previous games by an average of over 30 points. They beat Magna Vista in the Region 3D semifinal, 74-23, Abingdon in the Region 3D final, 57-42, Turner Ashby in the state quarterfinal at Roanoke College, 63-30, and Booker T. Washington in the state semifinal at the Salem Civic Center, 69-43. None of the games were even close, and the Cavaliers were excited for a shot at Spotswood.
“We watched a lot of film,” said LB coach Renee Favaro. “We got a really good scouting report from Kate(assistant coach Spradlin) and we had clips for the players to watch. We were very confident.”
The Cavaliers had one more practice scheduled for Thursday before Friday’s game, but then the bad news started coming in. Early Thursday morning it was announced the Class 1 and 2 state championships would be played as scheduled on Thursday, but Friday and Saturday games would be played with a minimal amount of fans due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Botetourt girls were making a list of family members who could attend, limited to four for each player.
“Not even grandparents could come,” said Favaro. “The girls were sad, but at least we were still playing.”
A couple hours later, just after lunch, the Virginia High School League announced that all games would canceled and “co-champs” would be declared. That included the Class 1 games on Thursday night, where fans had already travelled to Richmond for the evening games.
The news hit the LB girls hard. After a tear-filled meeting they decided to go ahead with their practice on Thursday.
“It was their last time on the court together,” said Favaro. “This was such a close group, they just wanted to be together one more time. They had a good time at the practice but there were lots of tears at the end.”
So, the Cavaliers and Spotswood will share the 2020 championship, but Favaro is adamant that this state championship shouldn’t be tainted by the way the season ended. Obviously, the Cavaliers wanted to play this game and were very confident they could win it. Nothing they did in the two weeks leading up to it suggested anything different. LB absolutely dominated Booker T. Washington, from Norfolk, in last week’s semifinal, and that turned out to be the last game the girls played.
“They looked better on film than they did when we played them, and you could say the same about Turner Ashby,” said Favaro. “Remember, Booker T. Washington was the team that knocked Hopewell out.”
Senior Miette Veldman led Botetourt with 24 points against the Bookers. Taylor Robertson had 15 and Grace Taylor was in double figures with 11 in what was a very physical game.
The Cavaliers ended up winning 23 of their last 24 games after starting the season 2-2, losing only to William Fleming in the Blue Ridge District tournament. They won the BRD regular season and the Region 3D championship.
“I felt like we were peaking at just the right time,” said Favaro. “Miette and Taylor(Robertson) were playing phenomenal together, going back to the Magna Vista game. This team was so unselfish, they didn’t care who scored and they all cheered for one another.”
The state championship is the fifth for two LB seniors, Veldman and Kenleigh Gunter. Both played on the 2018 state champs as well as state volleyball championship teams the past three years. Favaro was an assistant to Chuck Pound on the 2018 basketball team and the former Cavalier player now will have a state ring in her very first year as head coach.
“This is probably my favorite season, and not just because of my new role,” she said. “I was also a new mom and everyone on this team got along so well. They’re best friends on and off the court and it made it really fun to come to practice every day.”
Botetourt will graduate four seniors, Veldman, Gunter, Robertson and Meredith Wells. Two juniors return, Grace Taylor and Briana Myers, along with sophomores Ally Spangler, Brianna Wissemann, Allison Kirby, Olivia Griffin and Ava Brumfield. Spradlin and Mark Driscoll were assistant coaches for Favaro.
“I want this group to be remembered for the way they played the game together, the success they had, and their character,” said Favaro. “There wasn’t a time they weren’t having fun and playing with smiles on their faces. I don’t want their legacy, or how they are remembered, to be the team that got cut short because of coronavirus. Their legacy on this program is so much bigger than the way it ended.”