Cave Spring ends New Kent state Group AA title run
On the path to what would be their first Group AA state basketball title, New Kent’s Trojans encountered a 6-foot-11 roadblock in the form of Cave Spring center Josh Henderson. The Vanderbilt-bound senior poured in 31 points and grabbed 22 rebounds as the defending Division 3 state champion Knights halted New Kent’s quest with a 71-59 state semifinal victory.
“We’ve never seen anybody like that,” New Kent coach Ed Allen said after the March 9 contest inside VCU’s Siegel Center ended his team’s season at 25-3.
“It’s really hard to prepare for somebody that size in one day,” he said, pointing to the short time span following the Trojans’ quarterfinal win over Western Albemarle.
And it wasn’t just Henderson who did in the Trojans. He got help from 6-foot-4 senior forward Clay Lacy who pumped in 22 points.
“They utilized their ability to get [Lacy and Henderson] the ball and they got really easy baskets,” Allen said.
New Kent, meanwhile, did not get the anticipated point production from its starters. The Knight defense pressured leading scorer Steven Allen, limiting the Trojans’ top threat to a season-low five points on 2-for-10 shooting. Adam Otey sank four of 19 shots from the floor and finished with nine points. Everett Christian shot six times and totaled seven.
Point guard Justin Williams attempted to compensate with 16 points. Kaleb Lamb came off the bench to match Williams’ output on 6-for-8 shooting, but the combined effort was not enough.
New Kent struggled out of the gate at the offensive end, shooting a miserable 22 percent from the floor in the first half. But defense kept the contest close while the Knights experienced shooting woes of their own. Cave Spring managed just a 5-point (25-20) halftime edge thanks in part to 36 percent shooting.
Matters, however, heated up after intermission. New Kent shot 58 percent (11 of 19) from the floor in the third quarter, but Cave Spring kept pace, sinking nine of 19 shots.
With 1:19 left in the third, Lamb buried a three to overtake the Knights at 45-45, but New Kent could not forge ahead. The Trojans faced a 50-47 deficit heading into the final quarter, and early in the last period, the game began to slip away.
Otey scored to keep New Kent within three at 52-49 with just under seven minutes left, but over the next four minutes, the Trojans managed only a Paul Kearney free throw. Cave Spring embarked on a 13-1 run that put the Knights in command 65-50 with under three minutes to play.
“It seemed like forever that we went without scoring,” Ed Allen said. “We got decent looks but they didn’t go in.
“We knew coming in that we would have to run our offense better and stop putting people on the foul line,” he said. “But we fouled people and put them on the line, and a good team will beat you at the line.”
New Kent committed double the fouls (26) whistled on Cave Spring (13). Thus the Knights took 34 trips to the foul stripe, sinking 20. New Kent got there only 13 times, converting six.
“They scored 20 points to our six at the foul line, and that’s really the difference in the game,” Allen said. “We also average 25 assists a game and only had 13.
“[Cave Spring] passed better than any team we’ve faced, and they pulled us out further than we wanted to be on offense,” he said.
Despite the disappointing setback, Allen lavished praise on what his team accomplished during the season and for the effort displayed against Cave Spring.
“This team has always been together,” he said. “We played hard and battled them and we were still in the game in the fourth quarter. I can’t say enough about their heart.”
Kearney finished with three points while E.J. Gray added two and Chuck Evans contributed one. Of the 11 Trojans who saw action against Cave Spring, 10 are seniors and only Lamb, a junior, returns next season.