River Ridge District rival Floyd County defeated James River at the Radford University Dedmon Center Saturday night to eliminate the Knights from the Region 2C boys basketball tournament. The winner was guaranteed a spot in the Class 2 state tournament that begins this week, leaving the Knights one victory shy of a spot in the field.
“This year’s team accomplished more than what we could ever ask for,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “We kept the non-district schedule tough with schools three and four times our size and competed in the best 2A district in the state night in and night out. We knew each game was going to be a dog fight. Our goal was to give ourselves a chance to get back to the state tournament and we did just that.”
No one could say the Knights didn’t have heart. They opened the Region 2C tournament at Glenvar and quickly fell behind. The Highlanders opened a 20-8 lead after one period in front of a big crowd at Glenvar High.
River cut the lead to 27-20 by the half and the Highlanders went stone cold after intermission as the Knights turned up the heat on defense. Glenvar failed to score a point in the third quarter as James River caught up, and the drought continued into the fourth period as the Highlanders stayed on 27 for the first 10 and a half minutes of the second half.
The game was close down the stretch but River never relinquished the lead and held on for a big 50-43 win. It was the third time they played Glenvar this season and River won twice.
“Our guys’ performance at Glenvar was something we’ve been working for all season,” said Humphries. “We preached about the need for toughness in games like those and it was remarkable to see our guys take advantage of their moment. We’ve stolen a motto of telling ourselves ‘Good’ this year when adversity hits. What better place to use it than being down 25-10 in a road playoff game versus a top 10 team in the state. Our guys didn’t flinch and that’s some growth we can all be proud of. That kind of toughness is what we want to hang our hat on.”
Sam Bell led the Knights with 20 points and eight rebounds while Ryan Steger had 17 points and five assists. Jackson Taylor added five points.
That win earned the Knights a spot in the Region 2C semifinal at the Radford University Dedmon Center Saturday night. As with Glenvar, Floyd is a Three Rivers District rival and the Knights split with the Buffaloes during the regular season. However, this time Floyd prevailed as the Buffaloes took a 57-40 win to improve to 20-3 on the season.
Again, River had to claw from behind in this one. Floyd led 27-19 at the half and River never could catch them after intermission. Bell had 13 points, Taylor had 10 and Steger had nine.
“Ultimately, they had some role player guys we wanted to make beat us and they did,” said Humphries. “It’s pick your poison with a talented group like Floyd. They have five guys they can put out there that can make plays for others and are comfortable with the ball in their hands. Teams that can do that are always a tough matchup.”
Floyd went on to play another Three Rivers team, Radford, in Monday’s region final and the Bobcats pulled somewhat of an upset with a 57-46 win. Both Radford and Floyd advance to this week’s Class 2 state tournament.
The Knights finished the season at 14-11. James River will have a new look next year with eight seniors graduating.
“We’ll have a brand new crew next year as we will miss these eight seniors,” said Humphries. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but this year’s group helped cement the vision moving forward.”