The James River boys basketball team will be at home Thursday to play host to Radford, their district nemesis. The Bobcats come into the week at 7-1, including a win over Lord Botetourt in the Chance Harman Classic last weekend.
The Knights haven’t seen Radford since they lost 49-47 in double overtime in last year’s state semifinal at Roanoke College. The names have changed since then but the rivalry is intact and both teams come in hoping to grab the early advantage in Three Rivers District play. The Knights won their first two district games last week over Floyd and Glenvar while the Bobcats beat Alleghany in their district opener. Radford was scheduled to play Floyd on Tuesday while River had Carroll County in the nightcap of a girls-boys doubleheader.
River opened the 2023 portion of their schedule with an exciting 67-64 win at Floyd last week. Neither team led by more than four points for the entire game as the Knights won a game against a team that was ranked second in the state in Class 2.
“At Floyd is always tough, and to walk away with a win took every ounce of energy,” said River coach Ethan Humphries. “We had some seniors step up and make some big time plays down the stretch. Brian Moran and Ryan Steger hit some clutch free throws that helped put us over the top.”
Sam Bell led River with 23 points and seven rebounds while Ryan Steger had 20 points and George Toliver had 13 points and 10 rebounds.”
Last Thursday the Knights played host to Glenvar and got off to a horrendous start, with Glenvar scoring the first 15 points of the game. River slowly chipped away at the lead and tied the game at 43-43 at the end of the third quarter, then won the fourth period 20-13 for a 63-56 win.
“Glenvar was a lot more dramatic than what we would have liked,” said Humphries. “Our district will humble you real quick if you don’t show up. We were The Walking Dead the first four minutes but we finally woke up. It would’ve been easy to call it a night down 15-0, but our guys battled back.”
Steger got hot from behind the arc and hit five threes to lead the scoring with 27 points. Toliver had 15 points and eight rebounds and Jackson Taylor contributed eight points and five boards.
“Ryan caught fire in the second half and really turned the tide,” said Humphries. “When you watch him put in the work it’s great to see the results show up in games. The kid is in the gym until 9 p.m. most nights shooting those same shots he gets in the games. That’s the part many don’t see in terms of becoming an elite shooter.”
On Saturday the Knights played Pulaski County in the Chance Harman Classic in Floyd and dropped a 58-49 decision to fall to 9-4 overall. Steger had 17 points, Bell had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Toliver had 11 points. The game was tied at 47-47 in the fourth quarter before the Cougars finished strong.
“Saturday wasn’t our best game but our guys shouldn’t hang their heads,” said Humphries. “Pulaski came out and hit some tough shots and we made a few too many mistakes to beat a team like them. It was a winnable game, but given we were a couple possessions away from being 0-3 on the week sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.”