Both Cave and Northside use full court pressure to their advantage

Both Cave and Northside use full court pressure to their advantage 150 150 SWVA High School Sports

Cave Spring HS, Roanoke, VA – Oftentimes the second meeting between two good teams doesn’t live up to the billing. Last night’s game between Northside and Cave Spring did. The Vikings held on for a two point win, 57-55, in the last moments. Cave had their chances after fighting back from a double digit deficit. The game had similarities and differences to their first meeting back on January 19th. In both games, the Knights jumped out to an early lead, but Northside came back. Friday night it was the early Viking comeback coupled with holding Cave to only five total points in the third quarter that was the difference. That combination proved too big a mountain to climb for the Knights in this contest. Like the first affair, Cave fought their way back into it as well, sound familiar. Interestingly enough, this time they did it by taking a page out of Coach Pope’s playbook. In the second half, they pressed the Vikings all over the court. Coach Gruse was proud of how his team answered the challenge after that five point third quarter. “We felt like it was a really physical game… and we kind of challenged them (our team)… toughness is going to win this game. Let’s get off picks, lets press, get after them, beat em up, just try to be the tougher team, and daggone we almost got it, proud of our kids.”

Northside G/F 10 Ayrion Journiette

If there is one thing you come away with after watching Coach Pope and this year’s Northside Vikings, it’s that they go all out, the entire thirty-two minutes. In doing so, the Northside head mentor tries to keep his guys fresh.“We like to play a lot of people. I would have liked a little better rotation in the second half.

Cave Spring G/F 14 Stark Jones splits the defense

Honestly, I wanted to go a little deeper (rotate in more guys) in that second half. (I) kind of got away from that. They (Cave Spring) did a really good job battling back in the second half.” Just like every Northside-Cave Spring game of late, this one would be a battle to the end.

Cave Spring C/F 24 Dylan Saunders protects the rim


First Half – We thought it a bit ironic that early in the game, one of the officials switched out the game ball because it had too much air in it. I’ve heard of teams taking the air out of the ball (stalling) but never inflating it. I guess that’s what happens when you get two ‘race horse’ teams running and pressing each other.
Cave jumped out to an early lead on the offensive prowess of G/F 14 Stark Jones. Northside answered with Junior 10 Aryrion Journiette. In a physical game like this one, there are going to be casualties. Cave Spring’s F 12 Bryce Cooper picked up his second foul early in the first quarter and that sent him to the pine. Gruse thought that was big, but complimented his team for not missing a beat.

Knight Coach Jacob Gruse gestures to the court

“Yeah, he (Cooper) had two quick ones and he is a work horse for us. He is a tough matchup, strong as an ox, but we weathered the storm.” Northside came out in this game with their ‘guard you during time outs’ defensive mentality. That’s been a characteristic of late for these Vikings.

Cave broke the press early utilizing the quickness and dribbling skills of G/F 14 Jones and then he took the ball to the bucket once he got cleared the pressure.

Viking F 14 Keenan Bishop goes strong to the hole

That resulted in all seven of the Knights first quarter buckets being produced in the paint. Northside spread their first quarter points around more with a three, three field goals and six free throws. Cave led 14-13 in the first eight minutes.
The second quarter continued on a physical pace. Northside outscored the Knights by two field goals mostly due to more chances at their iron. The Vikings attempted thirteen shots while Cave took only six. The Knights kept pace at the stripe, though, with four of six free throws. If you like physical basketball then this game was for you. Between the two teams, there were seventeen fouls committed in the first half alone, almost evenly distributed. Coach Pope likes his team running at top speed but he wasn’t happy with the first half “reaching” fouls. As the quarter progressed, Northside G 22 Sidney Webb hit a floater in the lane to move the margin to 28-24 inside a minute. G/F 14 Jones answered with one of two free throws to make it 28-25. Northside had a chance to add to the lead, but Cave’s defense under the Viking basket was staunch. A deep half court throw was hauled in by G/F 23 Jamison Foley but he was called for traveling on the play. Northside led 28-25 at the half.

Cave Coach Gruse and Northside Coach Pope work the officials

Second Half – The two teams traded points for the first three minutes of the second half. With Northside up 33-29, Viking G/F 10 Ayrion Journiette nailed a three off the front rim, into the glass, and through. That started a Viking run to push the lead out to thirteen. In that flurry, Northside was on the floor digging out every loose ball. When the third quarter smoke cleared, Pope’s troops lead 43-30 going in the last quarter. Cave was 1 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line during that run of the game.
At this point, Knight Coach Gruse did something different. He had his Knights full court press the Vikings. Northside had pressed full court pretty much all game, but Cave had not. This changde the flow of the game in Cave’s favor. Gruse wanted his team to get an edge back.

F 12 Bryce Cooper

The Knight head coach admitted Northside had won the toughness department leading up to the last quarter, “I just felt like we were the tougher team in that fourth quarter. That’s no disrespect to Northside or Coach Pope or any of those guys, but I just felt like in the fourth quarter, we were tougher. They were probably playing tougher than us in the first three.”
F 12 Cooper’s foul trouble for the Knights continued and he exited the game with 6:12 left in the fray and the Knight’s eleven down. After that, Cave’s G 5 Urgo got the home team going with an old fashioned three, taking the ball to the basket and drawing the foul. The ensuing foul shot made it 49-41 Northside. Cave Spring’s full court pressure helped the Knights trade two buckets for one so with 3:25 left, the margin had tightened up to a six point Viking lead, 45-51. Northside G/F 11 Lawrence Cole answered with a field goal, but Cave’s big man, F 24 Dylan Saunders, followed that up with a bucket of his own.

G 20 Quentin ‘Q’ Slash got fouled going to the bucket on the Vikes next trip down and made both free throws. But Urgo kept pace for the Knights with a big three from the top of the arc to move it back within reach at 55-50 Northside, with 2:45 left. Back and forth they went with Cave chipping away a little at a time. On the next possession, Cave got a steal and F 11 Skylor Griffiths got fouled. The Junior made one of two. Cave Spring’s F 24 Saunder’s got a block in the paint on the Viking’s proceeding trip down with the ball and G 5 Urgo dropped in another field goal to make it 55-53 with a buck forty one left. G/F 10 Journiette was fouled on the Viking’s next two trips down the floor. Uncharacteristically, he made only one of four free throws at the line, keeping it a one possession game, 56-53. Northside’s team free throw shooting for the night wasn’t up to par. The Vikings shot 13/30 from the stripe for the game and Coach Pope wasn’t happy. “I know we can shoot free throws better than that. That was something we needed to do. But that is part of growing up as a team, and we are pretty brand new. (We) showed some signs of not having some of that experience down the stretch, not really anybody’s fault. Of course they were coming at us like gangbusters. You really are learning under fire,

but we kept fighting, kept battling and were able to hold them off, and that’s all that matters.” With three points separating the two teams, 56-53 Northside, Urgo got fouled and made them both to close it to a one point game, 56-55, with 1:04 left. Cave turned the Vikes over and had a chance to take the lead, but Urgo’s shot was off the mark.

Knight G 5 Charlie Urgo scores on a drive

Northside’s G 10 Journiette was fouled and the Junior made one of two to push it to 57-55 with :19 left. On Cave’s last possession down, G 3 Jacob Tozier got a look from just left of top circle but it missed the mark. F/G 14 Jones ran down the long rebound, but his three point try from the corner, in front of the Cave bench, also missed, and that was the ball game.

Northside, now 5-0, will continue their “Roanoke County circuit” schedule by heading over to take on Coach Todd Mann’s Highlanders this Monday, February 1st. The Vikings beat Glenvar earlier 69-52 at home. Cave Spring will entertain William Byrd this Monday as well.

Northside Journiette 13pts (4-FG, 1-3ptr, 2/7 FTs) Cole 10pts (2-FGs, 1-3ptr, 3/6 FTs) Foley 10pts (4-FGs, 2/6 FTs) Slash 8pts (2-FG, 2/3 FTs) Webb 5pts (1-FG, 3/4 FT) Leftwich 4pts (1-3ptr, 1/2 FT) Smith 4pts (2-FGs) 

Cave Spring  – Jones 20pts (7FGs,  6/9 FTs) Urgo 15pts (3-FGs, 1-3ptr, 6/7 FT) Saunders 13pts (4-FGs, 1-3ptr, 2/2 FT) Cooper 3pts (3/4 FT) Bishop 2pts (1-FG) Griffith 2pts (1-FG) 


“Coach speak”
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