- Special Sections
- Public Notices
BUCHANAN –– James River doesn’t have all the components still in place from last year’s Group A Division 2 state championship team. Friday, though, the Knights had more than enough to get the job done.
The defending state champs roared out of the gates to a 10-point lead in the first seven minutes, withstood a second-half Grayson County comeback attempt and strolled to a 73-50 win in the Region C Division 2 boys’ semifinals. The Knights (20-6) took on Radford in Saturday’s championship game, with both teams advancing to this weekend’s state quarterfinals. Grayson County’s season ends at 18-7.
In danger of being run out of the Knights’ home gym more than once, Grayson County trailed by 20 points early in the second half before nearly cutting the gap to single digits.
“We just missed shots,” Grayson County coach Lucas Austin said. “We got some pretty good shots at times, and I thought we played a terrible first half, but I looked up there and we were down by like 10. It seemed like we were on the brink of having a run, but we never could follow through with it.”
With his team down 41-21, Adam Cornett knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:39 left in the third, sparking a 13-4 run that in the next three minutes would see the Devils pull to within 11 points.
Mikey Rodgers hit three buckets in a little more than a minute, the last one cutting the James River lead to 45-34 at 3:37 of the third.
Grayson County would be within 11 points twice more before the end of the quarter but Jordan Talbott’s driving layup and free throw late in the third started a 16-6 James River rally that stretched into the fourth and would see the Knights’ advantage grow back to 20 points and beyond by the five-minute mark of the period.
“They’re a smart basketball team,” Austin said. “They were last year. And once they get a lead they’re very good.”
James River dominated the start of the game by dominating the glass. Not counting dead ball rebounds, Grayson County’s first board didn’t come until Landon Frost gathered a missed Knights free throw at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter, and the Blue Devils didn’t grab their first missed floor attempt until less than a minute remained in the period.
James River built a 20-11 live ball rebounding advantage in the first quarter, including its first points of the game, a John Bennett putback. The Knights had eight second-chance points in the first quarter, with Chris Ware’s stickback giving them their first double-figure lead, 14-4.
Averaging 72 points per game coming in, Grayson County managed just six points in the first quarter and was held to its lowest point total of the year.
“That was a huge factor,” Austin said. “All year if we’ve gotten off to a good start we’ve played fairly well, but we were kind of behind the 8-ball when we got off the bus, playing on their floor for a state bid. We like being the underdog, but getting down early was a factor.”
It was the final game in the careers of Cornett and 1,000-point scorers Eric Harvey and Tyler Rutherford. Rodgers, a sophomore, led the Devils with 16 points and Harvey finished with 12.
Ware poured in 24 points for James River, Bennett added 17, Talbott scored 14 and Brian Hoppe contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Grayson County......6 15 22 9––50
James River..........18 17 20 18––73
Grayson County (18-7)
Rutherford 3 2-2 9, Frost 1 0-0 3, Rodgers 7 1-2 16, Cornett 1 4-4 7, Cannaday 1 1-3 3, Harvey 5 2-4 12. Totals 18 10-15 50.
James River (20-6)
Duke 2 0-0 4, Bennett 6 5-8 17, Ware 10 3-4 25, Witt 0 1-2 1, Talbott 6 2-5 14, Hoppe 3 6-12 12. Totals 27 17-31 73.
Three-point field goals – Grayson County 4-14 (Rutherford, Frost, Rodgers, Cornett), James River 2-10 (Ware 2). Rebounds – Grayson County 31 (Rodgers 6), James River 39 (Hoppe 10). Turnovers – Grayson County 22, James River 17. Team fouls – Grayson County 20, James River 14. Fouled out – Rutherford.