DALEVILLE – Unfortunately for Lord Botetourt, Staunton River’s memory is just as sharp as its basketball skills.
Back when the seniors on the Golden Eagles’ team were freshmen, the Cavaliers, on their way to a fourth state championship, steamrolled Staunton River, 79-16.
Coach Kim Jones recalled that blowout after her Lady Eagles blasted their district rivals, 73-50, on Friday to complete the first regular-season sweep of the Cavaliers in at least a decade.
Jones said she used that beatdown four years ago as motivation on Friday.
“I told them remember when they beat y’all 79-16,” said Jones, whose team improved to a perfect 18-0.
Standout senior Jeni Levine remembered that night and she was eager to get some payback on the Cavaliers. Levine poured in 32 points, had xx rebounds and forced numerous turnovers on defense to spearhead the Golden Eagles’ attack.
“It feels good, for sure,” she said. “Four years ago, on this court, the score was way opposite. Way opposite. … I knew we had something to go after, something to prove, so that’s what we did. I know freshman year when we played them it was like 79-16, so we couldn’t let that happen again.”
The specter of that disappointing loss showed up early Friday when LB flipped the script on the Lady Eagles and unleashed a ball-hawking defense that led to some easy buckets. Botetourt, who only loss by nine to the Lady Eagles in the first meeting, built a 10-5 lead, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by Taylor Orange, forcing Jones to call a time out at 3:58 in the opening period.
“I said, ‘Are your butterflies gone yet,”’ Jones said. “I told them we’ve just got to play our game. We came out with a little bit of nerves, but we just had to settle down. Then once we did, we were fine.”
Fine was an understatement.
Staunton River outscored the Cavs 11-5 the remainder of the first quarter then put the game out of reach with a 24-3 run in the second quarter to take a 40-18 lead into the break. Maddie Hamren, who had 11 first-half points, put the exclamation point on the half with a late 3-pointer.
In fact, most of Staunton River’s starters contributed in the decisive second quarter. Jeni Levine’s twin sister Cali added five points, Jayda Jones pitched in with four and Ayla Farr, who came off bench, put two on the scoreboard. Senior starter Emily Creasey didn’t dent the scoreboard but was tenacious on defense and played a big part in limiting LB to just three points in the quarter.
“I’m just so proud of these girls,” coach Jones said. “Once they settle down and they just kinda pick each other up, talk to each other and just turn it around.”
Added Jeni: “We worked as a team super-well. I think our defense, we just clicked. We were one.”
The Golden Eagles played Franklin County on Monday and Bedford County rival Jefferson Forest on Tuesday and close out the regular season on Friday at Northside.
They’ll get the weekend to rest before starting the Blue Ridge District tournament on Monday as the top seed.
Just four teams make the district playoff, so it’s likely the Golden Eagles will see the Cavaliers again. But unlike four years ago, it will be Staunton River with state title aspirations.
“We’ll probably play them at least one more time, maybe two,” Jones said of Botetourt, who is ranked No. 2 in the district and has record of 14-5.
After the district tournament, the Golden Eagles will have a wait a few days to find out where they will be seeded in the Region 3D tournament, which begins Feb. 22. Most likely they’ll be the No. 1 seed, but the stakes get higher. A loss in the region ends their season and the most successful run in program history.
But Jones isn’t looking too far down the road.
“To be honest, we’re not focused on being undefeated, we’re just going game by game,” she said. “We’re just going to play hard no matter what.”
Levine said Staunton River formula for the region will be same as it’s been since the Dec. 1 season-opener.
“We just have to come out with the same energy,” she said. “Don’t stop.”