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MAX MEADOWS –– Some-where in Southwest Virginia, a small school basketball team is breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Entering the postseason as the 10th-rated team in Region C Division 1, Galax was poised to force its way into the six-team playoff field as an automatic qualifier by virtue of a district tournament championship. Had the Maroon Tide been able to pull it off, it would have opened regionals as the No. 2 seed and knocked the current No. 6 team out of the playoffs in the process. As it stands, Galax will be left out completely.
Needing to win the Mountain Empire District tournament to keep its season alive, the Maroon Tide finally ran into a team as hot as itself Friday night, falling to Fort Chiswell 68-54 in the MED finals on the Pioneers’ home floor.
After opening the season at 2-15, Galax found the right combination as the season waned and pulled off four straight wins. For all intents and purposes, Galax’s region tournament began with its district tournament quarterfinal game. As long as the Maroon Tide kept winning, it kept playing. But its first loss would mean the end of the season.
The No. 5 team in the district, Galax met the challenge by knocking off No. 4 Bland County in the quarterfinals and then surprising season champ Grayson County in the semis before running out of magic against the sharpshooting Pioneers.
The Maroon Tide shot the lights out in its semifinal win over Grayson, hitting 11-of-17 from 3-point range, and opened the championship game in like fashion by hitting three of its first four long-range attempts. Entering the second quarter with a 14-12 lead, the whole deal went south in the second period. Galax managed just six field goal attempts in the second, missed all six, and was held scoreless until Chase Garvey hit two free throws 18 seconds before the half.
Meanwhile, Fort Chiswell was knocking them down. Fifteen of the Pioneers’ first 17 points came in threes, starting with a pair of 3-pointers from Cory Mabry and Daniel Hamm. Dylan Hale completed a three-point play before Mabry and Jared Hovencamp hit back-to-back 3-pointers, capping a 20-0 run by the Pioneers for a 29-14 lead.
Galax was never within real striking distance the rest of the way, but to its credit, the Maroon Tide never allowed itself to be put away, either.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Dominic DiGiacomo and Chandler Quesenberry had Galax with 10 points, 35-25, midway through the third, and Galax was still just 11 down early in the fourth after a Keyshawn Brown trey.
Galax hit six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but Fort Chiswell made six of its seven floor attempts and was 11-for-17 from the foul line in the final 3:25.
The two teams combined for 21 3-pointers on the night, coming from nine different players. Peoples, Quesenberry and Mabry all had four 3-pointers apiece while Hovencamp hit three.
Peoples led all scorers with 18 points and Quesenberry scored 14 for the Maroon Tide. Mabry and Hovencamp led the Pioneers with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Galax...................14 21 6 22––54
Fort Chiswell......12 19 13 24––68
K.Brown 2 0-0 6, Bartlett 1 0-0 3, Pack 1 0-2 2, Peoples 6 2-6 18, Quesenberry 5 0-1 14, Garvey 0 5-6 5, DiGiacomo 1 1-2 4, Bryant 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 8-17 54.
Fort Chiswell (15-10)
Mooney 1 0-0 3, Mabry 5 1-2 15, Hovencamp 4 0-0 11, Rathbone 1 6-6 8, Hamm 1 4-10 7, Stoneman 1 0-0 2, Perry 3 0-0 6, Hale 2 4-6 8, Thomas 3 2-2 8. Totals 21 17-26 68.
Three-point field goals – Galax 12-31 (Peoples 4, Quesenberry 4, Brown 2, Bartlett, DiGiacomo), Fort Chiswell 9-13 (Mabry 4, Hovencamp 3, Mooney, Hamm). Rebounds – Galax 28 (Pack, DiGiacomo 4), Fort Chiswell 22 (Hale 5). Turnovers – Galax 15, Fort Chiswell 11. Team fouls – Galax 23, Fort Chiswell 15. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.