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HILLSVILLE –– One of the great things about postseason basketball is when a team that, for whatever reason, isn’t able to put it together on a consistent basis in the regular season has enough to throw a serious scare into a heavy favorite come tournament time.
Undermanned but talented nonetheless, fourth-seeded Tazewell took Carroll County down to the wire Wednesday before the Cavaliers showed what made them the No. 1 seed, hanging on for a closer-than-the score 72-66 win in the Southwest District boys’ semifinals.
Carroll County improved to 18-4 with the win and will play Abingdon, an 81-66 winner over Richlands, in the title game Friday. Tazewell dropped to 10-12 and takes on the Richlands in Friday’s consolation game.
“I have said all year long that Tazewell would be one of the most dangerous teams that we play,” Carroll County coach Brad Hawks said. “They really proved it tonight. They beat Abingdon, and Richlands twice, and took Galax to the wire. They’ve got some shooters and they do what they do. I knew it was going to be a dogfight and I don’t think the kids believed me until halftime.”
The Bulldogs had two starters on the bench with five fouls, and were down to just six available players, yet managed to hit the two-minute mark in a 66-66 tie thanks in part to consecutive 3-pointers by Colin Hancock.
His second trey fell through with 2:12 to play and would be Tazewell’s last points of the night. Ryan Gravley hit two from the foul line to give Carroll the lead for good with 1:58 to play, and Gunnar Beamer hit one of two. Both trips to the foul line were followed by Cavalier steals, one each by Wes Smoot and Connor Lundy.
Lundy hit three of four from the line in the final 32 seconds to ice the win. Carroll finished the game with three players on the floor who shoot between 75 and 86 percent from the foul line.
“If we get up a couple of points in the fourth quarter, I feel pretty comfortable holding onto the ball,” Hawks said. “I was tickled with the way we responded in the last 1:15. [The Bulldogs] were looking to shoot threes and we went no-help. It was the best we’d played defense all night, and our stall offense looked good.”
Carroll County led 42-35 on a Chris Smoot drive early in the third quarter but the Bulldogs would go 4-for-8 from behind the 3-point line, including three by Blake Hash, in the third. Noah Walker scored from the lane to put Tazewell in front 51-50 before the quarter ended in a 52-all deadlock.
Tazewell’s 3-point shooting forced the Cavaliers to abandon help-side defense on Walker, who dropped in eight fourth-quarter points. He finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“No. 34 came out and pounded us in the second half,” Hawks said. “He played like a man among boys.”
Carroll rallied from an early 9-3 deficit and into a 24-19 lead. Austin Horton’s three-point play closed the first half with the Cavs up by six. He finished with a team-high 18 points, Lundy scored 17, Gravley had 15 and Beamer added 10.
John Walker and Noah Walker had 19 and 17 points, respectively, to lead Tazewell, which got 12 points from Hash.
Tazewell................15 15 22 14––66
Carroll County......17 19 16 20––72
Lewis 3 0-0 6, Hash 4 0-0 12, Moore 0 0-2 0, Hancock 3 0-0 9, J.Walker 7 3 3 19, Jordan 1 0-0 3, Hankins 0 0-0 0, N.Walker 8 1-2 17. Totals 26 4-7 66.
Carroll County (18-4)
Gravley 5 4-4 15, C.Smoot 2 0-0 4, Beamer 2 6-8 10, Lundy 4 6-8 17, Keith 1 0-2 2, Lineberry 0 3-4 3, W.Smoot 0 3-4 3, Reece 0 0-0 0, Horton 8 2-2 18. Totals 22 24-32 72.
Three-point field goals – Tazewell 10-24 (Hash 4, Hancock 3, J.Walker 2, Jordan), Carroll County 4-18 (Lundy 3, Gravley). Rebounds – Tazewell 36 (N.Walker 14), Carroll County 33 (Lundy, W.Smoot 6). Turnovers – Tazewell 22, Carroll County 13. Team fouls – Tazewell 23, Carroll County 11. Fouled out – Lewis, Jordan. Technical fouls – Jordan.