DALEVILLE – The Northside boys’ basketball team had played four times and even took some practice time since Lord Botetourt last played a game.
Still, it was the Vikings on Tuesday night who seemed to dust off the New Year’s cobwebs when the two rivals from the Blue Ridge District first met in the 2021-22 season.
“We were just looking for something,” said Northside coach Billy Pope. “Some kind of combination that would work for us.”
The Vikings found the right mix just in time, opening the fourth quarter with a big run en route to a 69-62 victory over the Cavaliers in front of a lively crowd at Lord Botetourt High School.
Starting with a 3 points from Kai Logan until the end of the third quarter, Northside (10-1, 1-1) dominated Botetourt (5-3, 0-1) 19-6 in 5 minutes. who reversed the momentum in a game that had been controlled by the Cavaliers for most of the first three quarters.
“It started with our defense,” said Ayrion Journiette of Northside. “We had a lot of clutch thefts and then we got some quick braking points in transition. The defense starts the attack.”
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During the Northside run, Lord Botetourt returned the ball four times and made only one of seven field goal attempts. Journiette scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including seven of the Vikings’ last eight field goals.
“I started to attack more, to reach for the (basket) more,” said Journiette. “Then after doing a few layups I started to feel more confident and my outside shots started to drop. “
Northside also got 18 points from Lawrence Cole and 11 from Cam Abshire.
Pope, whose team had won their last four games (all at home) averaging 42 points, struggled with road playing conditions for the first time in nearly a month. He said the Cavaliers’ game ensured it would be a tough night.
“They did a good job with all of their stuff and it’s tough here,” Pope said. “You’re here, it’s a really great crowd for them… and it’s their home turf. We had to keep looking for something.”
Botetourt, who last played on December 21 (a 64-58 loss to Blacksburg), showed no signs of layoff fatigue early on, even though the team had faced tough times. ‘shutdown due to health issues and also had workout canceled on Monday due to the weather. The Cavs nevertheless led by up to seven points in the first quarter and scored six to three points in the first half. Meanwhile, the Cavs’ defense forced four turnovers from Northside in the first quarter and held the Vikings scoreless for more than 5 minutes in the middle of the period.
“We were playing hard against the ball and making sure they didn’t have a lot of touches in the paint,” said Conner Tilley of Botetourt, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half, including three at 3 points. “We were also doing early shots.”
The Cavaliers led by two after the first quarter, then gradually added to their advantage over the next two quarters. The lead was five at halftime and reached 11 points when a basket from Jackson Crawford gave LB a 44-33 lead with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter.
The lead was still 10 points with less than a minute left in the period, but the Vikings then started to close the gap.
“At the end of the day, we couldn’t get those easy shots,” Tilley said. “We started to weaken with the ball and their defense started to pick up.”
Crawford, who led the Cavs with 18 points, joined Tilley in double digits for Lord Botetourt, and Ashton Bramblett added 12. And while giving up a double-digit lead in a District game isn’t the best way to end the vacation, Botetourt coach Andrew Hart has found a lot of positives. That’s important since the Cavaliers have seven games scheduled over 14 days, starting Friday, when they host Radford.
“I knew we were going to play the way we were able to play, and we definitely did,” Hart said. “We were a bit tired in the fourth quarter and struggled to keep up like we did in the early parts of the game. It was about the difference.
“It was just one or two games here and there that made the difference in the last two minutes.”