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Friday night the Minutemen got even for the black eye JF gave them earlier in the season. But the Cavaliers did not go down easily. The final score showed 66-62.
“Jefferson Forest played a heck of a game,” Liberty head coach Jeff Monroe said. “We’re happy for the win.”
Liberty needed the win in order to stay ahead of E. C. Glass for the top spot in the Seminole. With a District record of 7-2 after their victory over Heritage Friday night, the Hilltoppers are half a game behind the Minutemen (8-2) for first place.
Fans packed the house at Liberty High School for the tilt with the Cavs. Liberty students came out in force, and Liberty’s pep band took its place in the corner to support the Minutemen.
For the past two years, Liberty has taken a game night to raise awareness of breast cancer. The Minutemen came out in pink warm-ups, and some of their fans also wore pink. The game was played with a pink and white game ball. The night’s theme was “Fight for the cure, every minute counts.” Some Liberty students painted letters on themselves and lined up to spell “Dorothy.” This was to honor senior Minuteman Thomas Clark, whose mother passed away from breast cancer.
Liberty silenced the visiting Forest fans with their opening 11-0 run. The Cavs, who did not come out of the gate shooting well, were not given many second chances offensively. Despite being smaller in the paint, the Minutemen were able to control the glass. Monroe said they have been sending four or five players after rebounds.
“We know most teams are going to be taller than we are,” Monroe said. Liberty has striven to fight for rebounds despite this.
Jefferson Forest eventually found the basket and played catch-up toward the end of the first quarter, but Liberty was still able to maintain a solid 17-8 lead.
The second quarter continued in much the same fashion. The Minutemen mixed it up, keeping fresh legs on the court. They put good pressure on the ball and were able to get rebounds. Liberty led Jefferson Forest 29-17 at the half.
After the half, the Cavs began to fight back. While Liberty kept a 12-point lead at the end of the third quarter, the Cavaliers were able to get into a groove, make some shots, and keep the Minutemen from increasing the lead.
The fourth quarter took on an almost frenzied pace. The Cavs wanted the ball, and they wanted to score. For the first couple of minutes it seemed as if the effort would go nowhere, while both teams traded baskets. The Cavs rallied, however, and put together an 8-1 run.
Much of JF’s success came from Kylin Cardwell, who had recently been moved up from junior varsity and contributed 15 points to JF’s total. Cardwell cut the lead to four points with a shot from around two o’clock behind the arc. Liberty took an immediate time-out. The gym seemed suddenly smaller, as JF fans were finally drawn into the game and made their presence known.
Forest took their only lead of the night after Jake Johnson, who had 10 points for the night, was fouled making a layup. He missed the free throw but Marcus Jones, who had four points, got the rebound and put it in to give the Cavs a late 57-56 lead.
Clark, who had five points, took the lead back for the Minutemen with a three-pointer. Liberty was able to make seven of eight free throws to hang on to the lead as JF saw their opportunity slip away.
“The result’s disappointing, but I can’t be disappointed with the effort,” Forest head coach Paul Smith said. “This is a hard place to play. The key thing is we didn’t quit.”
Anthony Reynolds led the Minutemen with 20 points. The Cavs’ Dakota Hall led all scorers with 23 points.
The Minutemen played Rustburg Tuesday after press time and will finish up District play on senior night next Tuesday. That’s when they’ll entertain Heritage.
The Cavs hosted that Heritage team on Tuesday and will play Amherst on the road on Friday.
Forest will wrap up regular season district play when it hosts Brookville on Friday, Feb. 8. That’s always a fun game.