James River High School will be the site of “The Rematch” this Saturday night in Springwood as the host Knights take on Lord Botetourt in boys basketball. The highly anticipated game was originally scheduled for December 30 but postponed until this Saturday, with the jayvees at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity at 7 p.m.
Both Botetourt County schools have strong teams and this game is always a highlight of the basketball season. The two met in Daleville on December 8 and a large crowd filled the LB gym to see the host Cavaliers win 71-65. James River had a 39-24 lead at the half and appeared to be in control only to have Lord Botetourt rally for the win.
Since then, both teams have continued to have good seasons. Lord Botetourt comes into the week at 11-3 while James River is 9-3 after falling to a strong Radford team last week at River, 56-43. The Three Rivers District rival Bobcats are perennial state contenders and a potential roadblock to the Knights when the post-season rolls around.
“Radford is a top team in the state in 2A,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “We couldn’t come out and let them dictate what we do and expect to be successful. But, that game will teach us a lot. We will learn from it and hopefully get everyone back healthy soon. I really like the direction we are headed and believe we have answers to some things we didn’t a month ago.”
Corey Easton led the Knights with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Patrick Clevenger had 15 points and 10 boards and Jayson Easton had 11 points. The game was closer than the score indicated, as it was a two-possession game with less than three minutes to go and River in possession of the ball.
“I thought defensively, outside of a handful of plays, we played really well,” said Humphries. “I like where we are headed on that end of the floor. They hit a couple incredibly tough shots to give them some separation. With the way our offense struggled all night, it was encouraging to see our defense keep it within striking distance.”
Lord Botetourt is coming off a 4-0 week with wins over Hidden Valley, Franklin County, Staunton River and Spotswood. After opening the stretch with an easy win over a 1-12 Hidden Valley team the Cavaliers hosted Class 6 Franklin County a day later and took a 66-52 win. Jackson Crawford was 11 for 19 from the floor for 25 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Another great win against an athletic Franklin County team,” said LB coach Andrew Hart. “We played well from the start and controlled the game throughout.”
Ashton Bramblett had 17 points, including three-for-four on threes, while Tayler Meade hit four threes and finished with 15. Dylan Salvi had five boards and five steals.
On Friday night LB played host to Staunton River in a district game and won 66-44. The Cavaliers jumped to a 23-6 first quarter lead and never looked back. Crawford had 15 points, while Bramblett and Conner Tilley had 11 each and Evan Bannwart had nine as nine different Cavaliers scored.
“We shot the ball really well, which was great to see after having a few poor shooting performances,” said Hart. “A lot of players were able to step up and contribute in this game and that was great for our development and improvement.”
On Saturday the Cavaliers were at Rockbridge County High to play Spotswood in the “Rock the Ribbon” event and pulled out a 56-54 win for their fourth win in six days.
“This game was an absolute battle and great high school basketball game,” said Hart. “Spotswood is extremely well coached and played hard on both ends of the floor. They really challenged us and gave us problems. We are incredibly proud of our crew for hanging tough and battling it out all the way to the end. It was our fourth game in six days and somehow we managed to save our best for the fourth quarter and pull out a victory.”
Crawford led the Cavs again with 17 points, while Tilley had 15 and Bannwart had 10. Bramblett had six rebounds and the Cavs won despite two of their best long-distance shooters, Bramblett and Meade, combining to go 1-10 from behind the line.
“We are finding ways to win games even when we don’t have our A+ stuff and that is very exciting for our coaching staff,” said Hart.
The Cavs were snowed out of a game with William Fleming on Tuesday and they’re scheduled to host William Byrd on Friday prior to the big rematch with James River on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Knights were snowed out of a game with Alleghany on Tuesday and are scheduled to host Floyd County on Thursday.