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WYTHEVILLE –– George Wythe’s gym is notoriously a hot, stuffy place. But Friday night it was on fire for Galax.
After a slow start the Maroon Tide shot the lights out the rest of the night, particularly from long range, and cooked George Wythe 54-35 on the Maroons’ home floor to win the inaugural Conference 46 boys’ basketball championship.
Both teams advance to this week’s Region 1A West tournament. Galax (17-4) will host Narrows on Tuesday while George Wythe (14-10) travels to Radford.
Defense has been the mainstay to the Maroon Tide’s success this year – Friday marking the 10th time the team has kept an opponent in the 30s – and Galax has shown at times that it can hit the long ball. But nothing the Tide has done this year matched Friday’s effort.
After hitting just 3-of-14 field goal attempts in the first quarter, including 1-of-5 from behind the arc, top-seeded Galax connected on 11 of its next 13 3-point attempts, including six in the second period.
“We just try to break toward the middle and kick it out to whoever is hot,” said Galax coach Verl Brown. “Tonight, everybody was hot.”
Knotted at 9-all after eight minutes, the Maroon Tide outscored George Wythe 20-10 in the second quarter, hitting 6-of-8 from behind the 3-point line in the process. Wythe led 13-11 when Galax scored on six of its next eight possessions. After a Caleb Bartlett 3-pointer and a short basket from Caleb Pack, Chandler Quesenberry and Cliff Conley hit 3-pointers on successive trips down the floor. The Maroons closed to 23-17 on a pair of Malik Johnson foul shots 2:02 before the half but Conley and Quesenberry each knocked down a trey to send the Maroon Tide into the locker room in front 29-19.
The threes kept coming after intermission – two each by Conley and Bartlett in the third quarter – and Quesenberry splashed a couple more early in the fourth as Galax hit five of its six second-half attempts.
Conley and Quesenberry combined for nine 3-pointers – five treys and 18 points by Conley and another four 3-pointers and 15 points from Quesenberry.
“We kept telling them that the shots were there, just execute and quit trying to force it in,” said Brown.
Defensively the Maroon Tide again got the job done as George Wythe didn’t score into the 20s until midway through the third quarter. Despite that, Brown sees room for improvement for his team.
“We weren’t moving our feet, we were putting them on the foul line, and that’s not us,” he said. “We play position defense and there were three or four times where we didn’t get our double down or didn’t rotate. I mean, you look at the points and it looks good but that’s not what we emphasize. We emphasize technique and we weren’t happy with that in the first half.”
Galax gobbled up huge chunks of time by working the ball around in the fourth quarter, and after the team’s 12th 3-pointer fell with 7:17 left, the Maroon Tide settled for nothing but layups or foul shots, giving the Maroons no chance to stage a rally.
“The third time playing anybody is awfully hard,” said Brown, whose Tide had taken regular-season wins over George Wythe by 24 and 22 points. “Wythe has gotten better, and so have we. The atmosphere was good we’ve got some things to correct before we play Narrows. I’m just glad to come out of here with a win.”
George Wythe......9 10 9 7––35
Galax....................9 20 13 12––54
George Wythe (14-10)
Anders 2 2-3 7, Phillips 4 2-2 11, Johnson 0 2-2 2, Deters 1 0-2 2, I.Brown 1 0-0 2, Rosenbaum 3 5-8 11. Totals 11 11-17 35.
Bartlett 2 1-3 7, Conley 6 1-1 18, Peoples 2 0-0 4, Merdian 1 1-2 4, Quesenberry 5 1-2 15, Pack 1 0-2 2, Garvey 1 0-0 2, DiGiacomo 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 4-10 54.
Three-point field goals – George Wythe 2-7 (Anders, Phillips), Galax 12-19 (Conley 5, Quesenberry 4, Bartlett 2, Merdian). Rebounds – George Wythe 26 (Rosenbaum 8), Galax 28 (Pack 6). Turnovers – George Wythe 19, Galax 15. Team fouls – George Wythe 13, Galax 16. Fouled out – I.Brown.