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Forest's Head Coach Paul Smith could not hide his disappointment following the Cavs' lackluster loss to visiting Appomattox. "We're beyond the point of earning moral victories," he said. "Merely hanging in there is not what we're here for."
The Cavs looked unimpressive as they let the Raiders' Michael St. John take charge of the game and put up 23 points, nearly half of the Appomattox total in its 48-44 win.
Ted Price scored nearly half the Forest points, as he pumped in 21 for the game. Brandon Harrison added 10 and Todd tenPas chipped in a pair.
Appomattox never trailed in this one. The team nailed two three pointers with its first two shots of the game. When Price put back a rebound to tie the score at 10, it was the last time the Raiders didn't lead.
The Forest play was marked by tentativeness and a lack of aggression. Not surprisingly, the Cavs had but a single foul in the first half. That stat, was not missed by Coach Smith.
Additionally, the Cav play was marked by committing too many turnovers at critical junctures and something that really bugged Smith: no rotation and no help on defense.
Jeff Miller could develop into a very dangerous outside shooter. The junior, who finished with 13 points, nailed a three pointer at the start of the game, then drove home another to bring the Cavs to within two points with 35 seconds left to play. However, Appomattox's AJ Pennix broke the subsequent press, picking up a foul. He made the front end of the 1-and-1. His miss on the back half was pulled in by Raider teammate Kevin Hawkins and this one was all over.
A bright spot for Forest was the marked hustle of point guard Colby Rhodes. The sophomore never gave up during this one.
This was Forest's home opener in its spacious new gym. It has been reported that Staunton River will be getting the exact same model (only in different colors). The ground was broken recently at Staunton River to build that item.
Eagles' energy not enough
Staunton River played host to James River as the front end of a home-and-home series. The Eagles were clearly outmatched by the Knights, falling 68-54. James River had at least four players that were taller than the biggest starter for Staunton River and the Knights used that edge to their advantage.
The Eagles kept the game close, and in the early going of the third quarter, only trailed by three points, following three straight baskets by James Bell. But after those heroics, the Knights exploited the height differential. James River's Patrick Bennett used a combination of height and muscle to post 10 points to close out the quarter and to push his team to a 15 point advantage.
James River's Corey Ware took on the scoring mantle to open the fourth quarter and built up the Knight's lead to as many as 22 points. It should be noted that none of Bennet's or Ware's points came from outside a six foot radius. Ware led all scorers with 24.
Mike Lynch was the leading scorer for the Eagles. The energetic junior popped in 16 points and paid several visits to the Eagle fans as his aggressive pursuit of loose balls found him well into the stands.
Lynch embodies the hustle and energy of this team. "Lynch gives us a different speed," noted Staunton River Head Coach Chris Carr. "The guys feed on Mike and James' (Bell) energy. When they get their motors going it gets the whole team going."
Carr had promised that the team would be exciting to watch. In the James River game, the Eagles did not fail to live up to that promise. But the size will be an issue, something that can't be coached. Post man Ryan Lilly was effectively neutralized by the Knights' big men. Observed Carr, accurately, "It wasn't that (Lilly's) man was beating him, but there were three or four of them on him."
The Eagles found it impossible to put together any inside game. Lilly, Al Dillon and Bell tried to push their way around the paint, but the James River bodies were just too large.
Liberty using many resources
The Minutemen stumbled out of the starting blocks, but were able to right themselves at the James River Invitational. Following a season-opening loss at R.E. Lee, the Minutemen picked up consecutive wins over Lord Botetourt and North Cross. Liberty edged the Cavs 66-65 and topped the Raiders 68-51.
Liberty went with a smaller lineup as big Boo Payne rested a niggling ankle. "It hurt not having (Boo) but some of our kids have really step up," said Liberty Head Coach Jeff Monroe. Some expected talent helped fill the void, including Chris Harmon (16 points against Botetourt and 10 against North Cross) and Martrey "Baker" Stevens (8 against the Cavs and 11 on the Raiders).
However, a couple of fresh faces showed up to help the Minutemen cause. Ryan Nichols and Anthony Reynolds took the opportunity to let their lights shine. The two, a couple of gym rats, played beyond their years in this pair of games. Reynolds put up 18 points over the two days, including a trio of three-pointers against North Cross.
Nichols, who is said to bear an uncanny resemblance to former Minuteman Mike Coleman, piled on 28 points, including 20 in the win over the Raiders. "Ryan has played well in our first three games," said Monroe. "I thought he would give us some production this year. He has really worked hard doing the off season to get ready."
Monroe seemed comfortable with where his team is at this point. "I feel like we beat two quality teams over at James River," he said. "I think our kids also learned a lot about each other, like if someone goes down, someone will step up."
He did, however, express some disappointment with the number of turnovers committed against R.E. Lee, noting that you can't expect to play like that and win against one of the top schools in the state.
Thursday evening, Forest is at Gretna while Staunton River visits James River. On Friday, Liberty hosts Lord Botetourt. On Monday, Staunton River heads to Liberty, while Forest hosts Heritage.