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Fast start, fast breaks lead Cave Spring over depleted Pulaski County

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The new floor in Cave Spring’s freshly renovated gym has a bold graphic CS logo at midcourt bisected by an understated center court line. That line was hardly needed in Cave Spring’s 74-44 trouncing of Pulaski County on Wednesday evening.

Both teams prefer playing in transition, spending little time in the half-court.

Scoring on fast breaks was fine with Knights coach Jacob Gruse.

“I love to get up and down and run,” Gruse said.

The Knight did just that from the tip. Stark Jones scored the first points of the game on a layup following a full-court outlet pass from Dylan Saunders.

“Stark is really good at leaking out, so I’ll get a rebound and hit him with an outlet pass,” Saunders said, describing the sudden-strike offense.

Jones had the hot hand early, hitting a pair of 3-pointers around Saunders’ spinning jumper to give Cave Spring (12-1, 5-0) a 10-0 lead. He finished the game with 13 points.

Saunders, a 6-foot-8 junior, scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half as Cave Spring put up 48 points. Mostly attacking the basket, the Knights shot 14 for 17 in the paint, scoring 28 points plus two more when Saunders added a pair of and-ones.

Gruse was pleased with the offensive sets that pushed the ball inside.

“I don’t think we had to force the transition,” he said. “The guys are starting to realize if something’s not there to kick it out and run something in the offense. I don’t think we’re really forcing the transition, which is something we did earlier this season. That shows me we’re growing and maturing.”

The running game starts with defense, and that was another bright spot.

“Our energy was good on the defensive end. Our defense has to be good for us to be in ballgames,” Gruse said. “That’s going to lead to those easy shots if we’re sound defensively and get in those passing lanes.”

Jones had six steals in the game, five in the first half. Owyn Dawyot intercepted four passes and scored four of his 11 points on fast breaks off the turnovers.

Nine Knights scored as both teams got everyone in the game.

“The guys who came off the bench played well, and we’re starting to develop some depth right now,” Gruse said. “We’ve got guys stepping up and we’re getting a lot of confidence in those kids.”

Pulaski County (7-4, 2-2) could have come to the game in a van, having an injury-depleted roster with only eight active players. Head coach Tyler Cannoy could not make the trip, so Rajia Haines served as acting head coach.

“We knew we faced a tall task, but I give the kids credit for fighting the whole way,” Haines said. “They never let up and they worked the entire game.”

J.J. Gulley and Kyle O’Neal shared team-high honors with 12 points each for the Cougars.


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