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RINER –– With the divisional playoff setup in place for the second year, there is no way Division 1 Galax and D2 Auburn can meet in the postseason.
It’s a shame. Because the two teams put on a tournament-quality performance Friday night.
Galax rallied from behind in the final two minutes to take a back-and-forth 59-58 win over Auburn in a nondistrict game. For Galax, in the midst of three games in three days culminating with a key Mountain Empire District contest with Grayson on Saturday, going home a tired winner was better than going home a well-rested loser.
“We weren’t going to wear the kids out in a nondistrict game,” Galax coach Verl Brown said, “but we couldn’t pull them out and look to tomorrow night, because if we lost this after playing like we did I was afraid we might lose our momentum for tomorrow.”
With all other aspects being fairly equal – rebounding, turnovers and foul shooting – the game came down to field goal shooting. In this case, 3-point shooting, and the Maroon Tide (17-1) made one more (nine) than did the Eagles (9-8).
It was a pair of treys by Auburn’s Jay Reed that propelled the Eagles from a 53-49 deficit into a three-point lead with 2:20 to play. Galax knotted the score on two Scott Alouf foul shots and took the lead for good when Alouf found Kyle Adams underneath for a 57-55 lead with 57 seconds to play.
“I know they could shoot,” Brown said. “I had last year’s tape, and I knew they were a good-shooting team. I don’t know some of their names, but I remember them from last year.”
Nathan’s Vaughn’s foul shot for Auburn was answered by two free throws by Cameron Frazier with 25 ticks left, and Auburn misfired on a hurried 3-pointer with five seconds left, hitting a meaningless stickback as time expired.
Galax jumped out to a 19-11 lead after eight minutes on the strength of six Adams points, a Frazier 3-pointer and two treys from Alouf. Vaughan dropped in consecutive triples as Auburn caught Galax at 21 midway through the second period, but two Frazier 3-pointers sent the Tide into the half with a 33-26 lead.
The second half was nothing but a battle for Galax. Auburn scored the first seven points of the third period, pulling to within 33-32 on Cameron Quesenberry’s 3-pointer at 5:46 of the third, but Justin Hash hit from long range on two straight trips down the floor as the Tide pulled back out to a 39-32 lead. Galax held its own thanks in part to the play of its bench, including Deion George and Michael Douglas, who put in some good minutes while Adams was mired in foul trouble.
“The last three games, that’s where we’ve won, with kids coming off the bench,” said Brown. “That’s the key for us right now. We’ve got other guys starting to step up. I can’t say enough about them.”
Auburn took its first lead in more than 20 minutes on Michael Welker’s putback with 1:56 left in the third, and though Galax closed the period leading 48-42 thanks to two Alouf baskets and a George inside bucket, Auburn was right back in it early in the fourth with a Brandon Musick follow and a Cotey Bentley triple.
Galax went the first 3:44 of the fourth without a point, finally scoring on Frazier’s driving layup. Alouf hit his fourth 3-pointer – and Galax’s ninth – for a 53-49 lead, but Auburn got its seventh and eighth treys of the game to take the late brief lead.
Auburn would finish with eight triples on the night, three each from Vaughn and Reed. Vaughn led the Eagles with 18 points while Reed and Bentley added 10 points each.
Frazier knocked down three treys and led all scorers with 19 points. Alouf chipped in 18.
Galax 19 14 13 11––59
Auburn 11 14 17 16––58
Hash 3 0-0 8, Frazier 6 4-4 19, Alouf 6 2-2 18, Houk 0 0-0 0, Adams 4 0-2 8, George 2 0-0 4, Douglas 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 6-8 59.
Quesenberry 1 0-0 3, Musick 5 1-1 11, Vaughn 7 1-2 18, Bentley 4 1-2 10, Jones 1 0-0 2, Cox 0 0-0 0, Blankenship 0 0-0 0, Reed 3 1-2 10, Welker 2 0-1 4. Totals 23 4-8 58.
Three-point field goals – Galax 9-25 (Alouf 4, Frazier 3, Hash 2), Auburn 8-23 (Vaughn 3, Reed 3, Bentley). Rebounds – Galax 30 (Adams 8), Auburn 33 (Musick 10). Turnovers – Galax 18, Auburn 17. Steals – Galax 10, Auburn 12. Team fouls – Galax 10, Auburn 9. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.
JV – Galax 44-31.