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The fourth time got them a third title.
The Staunton River Lady Eagles picked the best time to finally top Lord Botetourt, taking the Lady Cavs by a score of 48-36.
The win gave River the Blue Ridge tournament championship, an honor that eluded them last year, in spite of a regular season championship.
After posting a perfect 8-0 regular season mark last year, the Lady Eagles were stunned in the district tourney semifinals by Northside.
This year, it was the Bots who ran the regular season table, only to be ambushed by River in the tourney final.
“The tournament trophy was a motivation,” said Staunton River Head Coach Kim Jones, who also mentioned that the string of losses to Lord Botetourt helped pump up her ladies.
The Lady Cavs had taken River during the Lady Terrier Christmas Classic in December.
Then, the Botetourtans knocked off River twice to claim the regular season crown. “Like Shaniesha (Robinson) said, ‘We’re tired of them beating us’,” noted Jones.
Being tired is one thing. Doing something about it is quite another.
The Eagles were in a doing frame of mind.
They came out strong on the hardwoods of Northside, establishing ownership of the paint and, ultimately, the game.
Defense proved to be the key as River bounced between a man-to-man look and a zone.
The Eagles also doubled down on district player of the year Jade Lewis, limiting her to four points.
The other chief Lady Cav threat, Hannah Ward, had the ever-pesky Jodi Salyer to contend with for most of the game.
Salyer, with help from her teammates, kept Ward off the scoreboard. That is not an easy task, as Ward has impressed this newspaper as one of the finer players in the area.
Offensively, the Eagles were paced by Robinson and Salyer, as they have been for the majority of games this season.
Robinson, in addition to helping to shut down the Bots’ inside game, put up 19 points while pulling down 15 rebounds.
Salyer added 13 points while nabbing five steals, most of which were translated into River points.
Morgan Linkous chose a prime opportunity to have what Jones called “the best game of the season.” Linkous’s timely rebounding and crisp passing were certainly key to the victory.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Jones of the senior, who has quietly contributed all season long.
As a result, Jones let Linkous take the tournament trophy home with her after the game.
Was there any concern Linkous might just decide to keep it?
“No,” laughed Jones. “In fact, Morgan was the first one at practice the next morning.”
The trophy was in hand, by the way.
The win did nothing to change the playoff seedings in Region III, Division 4.
Lord Botetourt remained the top seed, by virtue of that regular season crown.
Staunton River took the #2 seed, a result of topping William Byrd in the tournament semifinals.
That second seed bought the Eagles a ticket to an opening-round game at Harrisonburg. That contest took place Monday evening, with the Eagles falling (see accompanying article).
Harrisonburg will now face E.C. Glass in the Regional semifinals.
The winner of that semifinal could well be facing Lord Botetourt in the finals.
Meanwhile, winning the Blue Ridge crown is a nice feather in the collective cap of the Eagles. (By the way, is there something wrong with Eagles putting feathers, of all things, in their caps?)
Fun aside, the win should go a long way toward continuing to build support and momentum for an already strong program.