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The battle for Bedford County got underway last week, with Jefferson Forest drawing first blood via a win over Staunton River.
But it wasn't easy.
The Cavs had their hands full with the undersized Eagles all evening. In the end, the lads from Forest hung on for an 86-82 win in front of an undersized crowd at the Sabredome.
"There wasn't a whole lot of defense played in this game," said JF Head Coach Paul Redgate. "Still, we're very happy to get the win."
Jefferson Forest's Tyler Lucy had himself a field day, putting up 28 points to lead all scorers. Lucy, who is noted for a superb outside shot, made the vast majority of his hay from within the paint, making inspired drives through the shortish Eagle paint players.
"I'm happy to see that Tyler didn't settle for the outside shot," said Redgate. "He was able to take it inside."
"We really couldn't match up with Lucy," noted Staunton River Head Coach Brandon Harris.
Harris's charges also couldn't seem to match up with Hunter McConville, like Lucy, a powerful being at 6'2". McConville had 19 points, all of them (except for free throws) coming from in close. The senior strongman also flexed some muscle in nabbing eight rebounds.
Cav Malik Stewart, showing he's getting back into basketball shape following a productive football campaign, added nine points.
The JF cause was also abetted by Tyler Cooper, a slight 5'9" point guard who showed a lot of moxie in picking up 11 points and dishing out seven assists.
Cooper was matched in large part by his colleague from the southern part of the county, Adam Wooldrige. Standing a mere five-and-a-half feet tall and certainly not a candidate for Weight Watchers, Wooldrige could not possibly have appeared to be a less-threatening ballplayer.
Until he started playing, that is. The pesky junior was disruptive on defense, while breaking out of a shooting slump on offense. He was good for 17 points, including four three-pointers.
Fellow guard Deshawn Martin kicked in 13 points.
The night before, in a 52-47 loss to Brookville, the duo had been held to a combined two points.
River's Andrew Phillips was another big gun. He nailed a trio of treys as the Eagles were 12-for-35 from three-point land. This bunch, which shot a total of 66 shots, obviously isn't gun-shy.
Ramir Hunt added 15 points, mostly on spirited drives through the paint.
"We're doing what we have to do, given our lack of size," said Harris. "This is the way we can play and it's the way we need to play."
JF had a tough time driving the stake through the heart. Up 82-73, the Cavs clanged several free throws, allowed River to gun multiple shots from the arc and were assessed an ill-timed technical foul.
During that time, the Eagles were able to whittle away at what seemed to be an insurmountable lead.
Noted Redgate, "We have to work on finishing."