The James River boys saw their basketball season end suddenly and painfully in the first round of the Region 2C basketball tournament Monday night. The host Knights lost to Glenvar, 57-54, when Stephen Barber of the Highlanders hit a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer.
“That loss was a knife to the gut for sure,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “We battled foul trouble from what seemed like the opening possession and never really got a groove going. We’re proud of the guys and their fight but, that 60-foot prayer sums up a weird and unpredictable season. We’ve played some great ball this past week, but it wasn’t meant to be this go around.”
It was a close game between two very evenly matched teams. No one led by more than five and the lead changed hands many times. Glenvar led by two after one quarter, River led by one at the half and the game was dead-even, 39-39, after three.
River had a one point lead at 47-46 with 1:27 on the clock, but the Highlanders went six-for-six from the line while denying River on the other end to take a five-point lead at 52-47 with 34 seconds to go. Then River mounted a comeback.
Patrick Clevenger got inside for a layup to cut the lead to three and River fouled, with Glenvar hitting one of two. Jayson Easton scored to cut the lead to two and again River fouled and Glenvar made one of two to lead 54-51 with 12 seconds on the clock.
After a timeout Easton took a shot from two steps behind the line at the top of the key, and it bounced on the rim before settling into twine with 2.5 seconds to go. The Highlanders called a timeout with the ball under the River basket. Barber took the inbounds pass and fired one up from the opposite foul line. The buzzer sounded with the ball in the air and it hit pay dirt, sending the Highlanders into a frenzy as the Knights looked on in disbelief.
Easton finished with 17 points to lead River while Clevenger had 13, Isiah Moran had seven and Ryan Steger had six. Barber was game high with 27 points for Glenvar.
The loss ended River’s season at 5-6 but the Knights battled through COVID for much of the shortened season. They were finishing strong with wins over Floyd County, Class 6 Franklin County and Class 4 Salem to end the regular season last week. It was the first time in a while Humphries had his full team on the floor.
At Floyd, River won 86-61 as Clevenger had 30 points and 11 rebounds. Easton had 16 points.
On Friday against Franklin, Easton had 20 points, Clevenger had 16 and 10 different players scored in a 70-43 win. River went up 19-0 in the first quarter.
Then, on Saturday in Springwood, River beat Salem on Senior Night, 59-41, to get back to .500 for the regular season. Heath Andrews led with 10 points and Easton had 10 boards as the Knights dominated the backboard, outrebounding the Spartans 45-22.
The strong finish gave River the fourth seed and a home game on Monday, and it looked destined to go into overtime before the three-quarter-court shot found the net. Still, that doesn’t take away from what should be a very promising future for the Knights in the next few years. All five starters return.
“As we move into the offseason we’re very optimistic about what the returning group can accomplish,” said Humphries. “We only had four practices this season with our complete roster – and even those practices were broken apart by the quarantine. These kids love the game and I know they’ll be living in the gym this summer.
“Once we get accustomed to playing together and have an offseason to improve I think what we saw as our peak performance this year will be our floor next year. As gut wrenching as that playoff loss was, we are equally excited about the future of James River basketball.”