A near capacity crowd in the gym at Lord Botetourt High School was on hand to watch the first of two intra-county basketball games between the host Cavaliers and James River last week in Daleville, and the fans got their money’s worth. James River took an early lead but Lord Botetourt battled back for a 71-65 win over the Knights.
“Great comeback win and very gutty performance by our guys,” said LB coach Andrew Hart. “We really showed some grit and willingness to do whatever it took to win. It was great to see. James River has an excellent team this year and they are going to win a lot of games. It will be another battle when we play them late in December.”
The Knights, who are drawing a lot of attention in the Roanoke Valley and beyond, looked like they might run away with it in the first half. River led 21-11 after the first quarter, then increased the lead to 39-24 by the half and looked great in doing so.
The second half, however, belonged to Botetourt. With point guard Jackson Crawford igniting the comeback the Cavaliers cut the lead to just one point, 49-48, after three quarters. The scrappy Cavaliers took the lead down the stretch and were able to hold off a River rally for the win.
“We had so many guys step up and make key plays in the second half after a disappointing first half,” said Hart.
Crawford led the Cavaliers with 27 points, hitting seven of 14 from the floor. Jackson drove fearlessly into the paint to pick up fouls and was 11 for 11 at the free throw line, mostly in the second half.
Ashton Bramblett had 13 points for the Cavaliers and Tyler Meade finished with 11. Conner Tilley had six rebounds and Crawford had six assists.
Patrick Clevenger led River with a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds. Jayson Easton had 17 points and scored his 1,000th career point. It was mentioned at the time, but celebrated prior to Friday’s home game, a 77-58 win over GW-Danville as the Knights got back to winning ways.
“Jayson is shooting 51 percent for the year and 58 percent from three-point range,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “He’s playing some really efficient ball for us and making it look easy out there. This is all while tackling a heavy defensive assignment.”
Easton led River with 19 points against GW. Ryan Steger had 17 points, Clevenger had 16 and George Toliver had 10 in a balanced attack. Clevenger had eight rebounds and Corey Easton had five assists.
On Saturday night the Knights improved to 3-1 with a 63-38 win over William Fleming in the Roy Stanley Memorial Shootout. The win was the featured game of a four-game schedule played at the Roanoke College Cregger Center.
River had three players to hit three or more three-point goals in the win over Fleming. Corey Easton hit four and scored 12 points while Steger and Jayson Easton hit three each. Jayson finished with 19 points, Steger had 11 and Clevenger had 10 as the Knights outscored the Colonels 39-16 to blow the game wide open after leading just 24-22 at the half.
River was scheduled to play at Staunton River on Tuesday followed by a trip to Harrisonburg High School this Saturday to play East Rockingham High in the Roger Bergey Classic. East Rockingham, last year’s 2A State Runner-Up, has University of North Carolina commit Tyler Nickel, a 6’7” wing who is trying to break the VHSL All-Time scoring record.
“He would have easily gotten it this year if not for the COVID-shortened season last year,” said Humphries. “It’s an honor to be the prime time matchup of the event on Saturday night. East Rock is the hands down favorite in their region.”
The game is another in what could be the toughest schedule in the state for a Class 2 team. River’s first five games are all against teams in larger classifications.
“Last week was a great experience for our group,” said Humphries. “To play four hard fought games in six days against stiff competition, I’m not sure we can ask any more from our guys. I’m proud of the way they’ve been fighting. It definitely made us better as we start our journey. There’s a lot of room for improvement from all of us and that’s the most exciting thing about it.”
The Cavaliers continued their season on Friday at Blacksburg and went down to defeat for the first time, losing a 60-59 decision to the Bruins. The game was tied at 33-33 at the half and LB had a two-point lead after three quarters.
“Tough loss on the road,” said Hart. “We weren’t at our best, but gave ourselves a chance to win, the ball just didn’t bounce our way. Hopefully we will treat it as a learning experience and find some ways to improve heading into our games this week.”
Conner Tilley led four Cavaliers in double figures with 17. Meade had 16 and Crawford and Bramblett had a dozen each as those four scored 57 of LB’s 59 points.
The Cavaliers were scheduled to host Floyd County on Tuesday and Friday they open their Blue Ridge District schedule with a game at William Byrd.