Devils pull away from Galax

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By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

INDEPENDENCE –– Maybe it’s a good sign when there is no longer a dose of gratification to be found in moral victories.

Galax, which was blown out by 32 points in its last meeting with Grayson County, and which is two victories away from matching the last two years’ combined win total, was within five points at halftime and within 10 points in the fourth quarter before fading down the stretch, falling behind by as many as 23 before losing 55-40 in a Mountain Empire District girls’ game.

Just hanging close wasn’t what Maroon Tide coach Jamie Keatley had hoped for.

“I’m not real happy with us right now,” she said. “We played hard the first half, but we didn’t take another step up that ladder like we have been talking about. We didn’t put the ball in the basket when we needed to. We played hard at times, but when we broke down was when they hurt us.”

Caci Higgins popped a 3-pointer from the left wing to bring Galax (6-11 overall, 1-4 district) to within 10 points, 40-30 with 7:36 to play, but the Tide wouldn’t score its next point for another five minutes. Grayson County exploded for a 13-0 run, starting with Joyelle Combs’ 3-pointer and ending with back-to-back steals by Larissa Greer, which were converted into transition baskets by the Devils (11-5, 5-0). Kayla Spurlin’s bucket put Grayson on top 53-30 before Galax closed on a 10-2 run over the final 2:38, including two Janisa Lawson 3-pointers.

Just as in the two teams’ first meeting, a 64-32 Grayson win, Galax was within a couple of possessions at halftime before being overpowered in the second half. Grayson County used a 10-0 run to take a 13-3 lead late in the first quarter. A Combs 3-pointer put the Devils ahead 20-9 before Galax finished the half with a flurry, putting together a 9-3 run, starting with a Higgins trey at the 2:16 mark. Baskets from Megan Spears and Piper Caudell were answered by a Megan Funk 17-foot jumper for the Devils, but Higgins beat the buzzer from just inside the 3-point line to close the half with the Tide trailing just 23-18.

“There for a minute I thought it was going to get away from us,” said Keatley. “But we struggle in the second half. I don’t know where it comes from. Once we take a break we can’t get back in the groove.”

Grayson’s Tiffany Blevins sank a 3-pointer to close the third period with the Devils on top 39-27 despite eight third-quarter points from Galax’s Jamie Webb.

“We had all kinds of shots in the first half, we just didn’t shoot them very well,” Grayson County coach Thomas Owens said. “In the third quarter we got a few layups and got something going offensively. But they did a real good job of keeping Mikaela under control. I give Galax a lot of credit. They had a good strategy, they did a good job defensively, and that’s good for us.”

Taking away the middle on defense and beating Grayson downfloor in transition, the Maroon Tide held Blue Devil center Mikaela Anders to seven points, 12 below her average. Combs led the way with 15 points and Blevins added 11. Anders contributed 12 rebounds and five blocks.

Webb paced Galax with 15 points. Webb’s 15 led Galax, while Higgins scored 10 and Caudell pulled down 10 rebounds.

Galax 5 13 9 13––40

Grayson County 13 10 16 16––55

Galax (6-10, 1-3)

Higgins 4 0-0 10, Webb 7 0-2 15, Lawson 2 0-0 6, Caudell 2 0-0 4, Spears 1 1-2 3, Cardwell 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 1-4 40.

Grayson County (11-5, 5-0)

Spurlin 2 0-0 4, T.Blevins 4 2-2 11, Combs 6 0-3 15, Vaughan 1 2-2 4, Anders 2 3-7 7, Greer 2 0-0 4, Hall 1 0-0 2, Funk 3 2-2 8. Totals 21 9-16 55.

Three-point field goals – Galax 5-9 (Higgins 2, Lawson 2, Webb), Grayson County 4-17 (Combs 3, T.Blevins). Rebounds – Galax 49 (Caudell 10), Grayson County 49 (Anders 12). Turnovers – Galax 25, Grayson County 15. Steals – Galax 10 (Webb 3), Grayson County 20 (Anders 5). Team fouls – Galax 12, Grayson County 10. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.

JV – Grayson County 28-25.