Galax continues to rise

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The Maroon Tide is two years removed from a 1-19 year, but the distance seems much greater.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

It wasn’t that long ago that talking about Galax girls’ basketball wasn’t exactly a fun thing to do. One-win seasons tend to take the joy out of such conversation. Thanks to hard work, continuity and some good old athletic ability, this year’s Maroon Tide team won’t have to worry about talking basketball in hushed tones. “I have to commend Jill and Drew for sticking with it,” said Galax head coach Jamie Dotson, who, along with seniors Drew Cardwell and Jill Bartlett, endured a 1-19 campaign just three years ago. Galax got about as low as it could, and has been steadily climbing since. “Our record has been nine or 10 wins the last couple of years, but we are competing with teams that three years ago we were averaging 14 points per game,” Dotson said. “We may not be winning those games but we’re getting closer and closer.” And every now and then they’ll break through with an eye-opening upset, as Highlands learned in the regionals two years ago, and as Bland County saw last February.  “I think we’ll be better this year, but I think we’ll show our youth at times, too,” said Dotson. That would only stand to reason, as other than a junior and a couple of seniors, Galax will basically field a JV team in terms of age. But age is a relative thing, as all but three of Dotson’s players have at least one year of varsity experience, while Cardwell and Bartlett are four-year varsity players. “We’ve got nine on the team, but really we’re nine deep,” Dotson said. “Nine girls who can play basketball. Nine’s not a big number, but when you’ve got nine who can play, it’s not so bad.” Galax was 19 points better than Marion over the course of six quarters in a scrimmage last week, and all nine players saw a fairly balanced amount of time on the floor, and all nine contributed offensively. It seems simplistic, but progress is showing up in the fact that the Maroon Tide can actually set up plays and run them, something that hasn’t happened much in recent years. “For the first time in the three years I’ve coached, we’re really able to execute some offensive plays,” Dotson said. “I think that comes from experience, playing together for so long. We were able to call a play and execute it, which was something I really haven’t been able to see us do.” The Tide lost its top playmaker from a year ago in Jamie Webb, who averaged 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 3.0 steals, but the team’s second- and third-leading scorers return in sophomores Bailey Shumate (9.3) and Allison White (8.6). With only two players as tall as 5-foot-8, Taylor Bryant and Burgandy Bobbitt, Galax will instead use overall athletic ability to get the job done. “We’re not real big but we can run the floor and we can catch the ball at the high post, face the basket and either get a shot off or drive to the basket,” said Dotson. “You’re not going to see a lot of posting up down low. We’ve put in an offense that doesn’t make us do things we’re just not real good at. It makes defenses come play us and defend what we’re good at.” Channing Russell will take over at point guard, having started most of Galax’s games a year ago, while newcomers Haley Reynolds and Hailey Cassell will also be called on to contribute. “Haley Cassell played JV as freshman last year, and I think you’ll see a lot out of her,” Dotson said. “She may not be the biggest scorer but she hustles defensively and she’s going to get a lot of steals, especially being the anticipator on our press.” Galax may be a year away from competing for a district title, but with the bulk of the team in place for a couple more years, and a feeder program growing steadily stronger, including an eighth-grade team that is currently 10-2, good things are in store for the Tide. “I’m just proud of the girls,” Dotson said. “They’ve worked really hard. We’re still feeling the effects of the numbers thing but it’s going up. This is the first year we’ve had to make cuts on JV. Our JV is all eighth-graders and four freshmen. The interest is there, and a lot of younger kids are wanting to be a part of it.”