The James River girls hosted their first “Knights Winter Classic” basketball tournament last week and made the championship game before falling to Class 4 Jefferson Forest in the final.
River took on Auburn on the first night and came up with a 53-36 win. Caitlin Canada had a big night with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Kelsi Maydian had a dozen points and half a dozen boards while Audrey Benson had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
“We came out with intensity and fire,” said coach Ryan Firebaugh. “When you see a team diving for loose balls on the floor early in the game you know it’s going to be a good game. That’s what we did.”
That set up a semifinal game with Amherst, and the Knights came out on top again, 42-33. River raced to a 15-9 lead at the outset and was up 10 at the half.
“We played well from the tip,” said Firebaugh. “When you’re up by 10 at halftime you cannot take your foot off the gas, you must come out and continue to do what you did to build that lead. We came out flat in the third and let Amherst get back within striking distance, but we settled down in the fourth quarter and built our lead back up.
“I cannot be prouder of this team. They answered adversity and overcame it.”
Canada had 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and a couple steals. Maydian had 10 points and five steals while Siera Davis had nine points and Benson pulled down six rebounds.
The win set up a championship game between River and Jefferson Forest on Friday night, and it was a good one. The Cavaliers held a one point lead, 18-17, at the half and it was a two-point nail-biter after three quarters with Forest up 28-26.
“We battled all night with a very good team, trading buckets back and forth,” said Firebaugh. “We had a spurt late in the fourth where we turned the ball over a couple of times and Jefferson Forest could not capitalize on our mistakes. I think if we could have been able to capitalize on those missed opportunities by them, we would have won the game.”
Jefferson Forest finished with a 44-37 win. Maydian led the Knights with 17 points while Canada had nine points and six rebounds. Benson had five rebounds and four assists for River.
“Jefferson Forest is a 4A school and they are predicted to go a long way in their respective region,” said Firebaugh. “For us to battle with them for four quarters speaks volumes for my girls. The energy my girls brought for the last three days was great.”
The big week lifted the girls to 3-5 on the season and they’ll close out the year on Friday with a home game against Waynesboro. Then they’ll open 2024 with their Three Rivers District opener on Wednesday, January 3, at Floyd County.