The Salem High boys will play Cave Spring for the fourth time this Saturday when they meet the Knights in the semifinal round of the River Ridge District tournament.
The top four teams in the RRD make the tournament and Cave Spring will finish in second with Salem third. Patrick Henry is the top seed and Pulaski comes into the week in fourth while Blacksburg still has a chance to catch them.
The RRD tournament will be held at Hidden Valley High School. On Saturday the PH game will begin at 5 pm with the Salem-Cave Spring game to follow. The championship is Tuesday, February 18, at Cave Spring.
Salem still has one regular season game to go, tonight at Pulaski County. That’s not a meaningless game as it will mean something for seeding in the Region 4D tournament, which begins the end of next week. There are eight teams in the region and all eight are in the tournament with the first four getting opening round home games. Salem currently sits in fourth, but could fall to fifth with a loss tonight. That would likely mean a trip to Lynchburg to open the regional.
“The way I see it, and this is strictly unofficial, is that we’ll be fourth if we beat Pulaski and host E.C. Glass in the first round,” said Salem coach Kevin Garst. “But if we lose to Pulaski, then Glass will likely pass us and we’ll have to go there.”
The top three region teams are looking like Halifax County at one, Jefferson Forest at two and George Washington of Danville at three. Blacksburg, Amherst and Pulaski are also in the region and they figure to have the last three spots and play the top three teams in the opening round. The tournament is played at the higher seeds, so there will be no short trips for Salem fans unless the Spartans get a first round home game.
Salem comes into the week at 14-7 overall and all seven losses have come to three teams, Patrick Henry twice, Northside twice and Cave Spring three times. The Spartans lost to the Knights again last Saturday at Hidden Valley, 71-58, as Cave Spring High School is being renovated and the gym there is unavailable.
Once again, Salem was right in the game. The Spartans led by three at the half but the Knights scored the first 13 points of the second half and Salem never caught up. Cave Spring’s front line of 6’8” Parker Huffman and 6’7” Matthew Cagle gave the Spartans fits around the basket and Salem struggled from behind the arc.
“We have to get fast break baskets off our defense against Cave Spring, and we weren’t very successful doing that Saturday night,” said Garst.
Alex Blanchard led Salem with 16 points. Nick Owen had 11, including three threes, and Ethan English had 10.
The good news is, after this weekend Salem won’t see Cave Spring, Northside or Patrick Henry again. The Spartans are in Class 4 while PH is Class 5 and both Cave Spring and Northside are Class 3.