The No. 2 team in Group A will meet the No. 4 team in Group AA when Cave Spring hosts James River in a basketball battle of Knights Saturday evening at Cave Spring High School.
Cave Spring is the fourth ranked team in Group AA, according to the Associated Press. The River Ridge District Knights are 10-2, and before last weekend their only loss had been to James River, in Buchanan. Last Saturday Northside beat Cave Spring, 71-63, at Northside.
River is 13-1 after coasting to a home win over Craig County on Monday. These Knights are having little trouble in the Pioneer District and Saturday’s game against Cave Spring should be a good measuring stick as to how both teams have improved since River took a 62-45 win over Cave Spring in December.
This one is at Cave Spring, and several factors will make this a tougher game. River has since lost center Chris Ware for the season, and he was important in defending 6’11” Cave Spring center Josh Henderson, who has signed to play at Vanderbilt next season. Ware led River with 21 points in the first game.
Secondly, this game will be played at Cave Spring. The gym should be packed for the rematch and Cave Spring’s crowd is loud and rowdy, as will be the visiting River fans who make the trip for the Saturday night marquee match-up.
Another factor is the floor. River has one of the larger floors in the area, and Henderson appeared to labor getting up and down the big floor in Buchanan. Cave Spring has an older gym with a smaller floor, more suited to their style of play. River would like to run and Cave Spring would like to come down and set it up, and the smaller floor favors Cave Spring.
While Cave Spring has been playing quality opponents like Northside, William Fleming and Roanoke Catholic over the past few weeks, River has been feasting on the much weaker Pioneer District teams. The Knights were hardly tested in three district wins in the past week.
Last Wednesday at Bath, River took a 88-67 win over the Chargers. After falling behind 18-13 in the first period, the Knights outscored their hosts by 26 the rest of the way. Patrick Bennett had 21 points to lead River and Ethan Humphries and Jordan Talbott had 16 each. Humphries also had six assists.
On Friday at home, the Knights hammered Covington 79-38. Humphries led five players in double figures with 18 while Talbott had 16. J.T. Sandidge, Patrick Bennett and John Bennett had a dozen each.
Monday night, River cruised by Craig County 74-21. River led 38-12 at the half and outscored the overmatched Rockets 22-0 in the third period. Humphries had 17 points and eight steals, converting most of those steals to easy buckets on the other end.
River will play host to Highland tonight in another game that should be over by the end of the first quarter, and Friday make a return trip to Parry McCluer. The Blues have a chance to give River a game, although they didn’t here when the Knights took a 61-27 win.
Next week, River is at Craig Tuesday and home to Bath on Thursday, Jan. 28.