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The last time Galax won the Mountain Empire District girls’ basketball championship, the ladies played hoops in the fall, the MED schedule included games against Pocahontas, Mount Rogers and Rocky Gap, and the senior players on this year’s team took naps during the school day.
This year’s title team has had the district in a sleeper hold all season.
The Maroon Tide clinched its first MED season crown since the fall of 2001 Wednesday night by pummeling Bland County 54-33. Galax won the title outright with a game remaining on the schedule Friday against Narrows.
Other than an inexplicable near-miss, four-point escape of last-place Narrows in mid-January, the senior-dominated Maroon Tide (18-3 overall, 9-0 district) has claimed its nine district wins by an average of about 20 points per game. In its most recent wins, Galax has proven that if it plays stout defense, enough shots will eventually fall to take care of things.
Though Galax scored three seconds into the game Wednesday, nearly half of the first quarter was played with the Tide holding that 2-0 lead. Channing Russell knocked down a 3-pointer at the 3:43 mark that kicked off a run that would see the Maroon Tide run away from the Bears.
Russell’s trey started a 13-2 spurt to the end of the first period. Sydney Lindsey and Allison White both scored off of their own steals and Hailey Cassell hit a pair of short jumpers as Galax took a 16-4 lead after eight minutes.
Taylor Bryant, who has been on fire from long range in the absence of injured Bailey Shumate, continued lighting it up from the outside and swished two 3-pointers early in the second quarter, and the Maroon Tide lead grew to 17 points, 29-12, on Lindsey’s steal and layup at 4:27 of the second.
Bland County (12-8, 5-4), which entered the night with a tenuous hold on second place in the league, was able to pull to within 10 points on a 7-0 run, closing to 29-19 on an Alyssa Harris foul shot 33 seconds before the half, but Galax laid the foundation for what would evolve into a 22-1 run by scoring the final four points of the first half, including a Lindsey putback that just beat the halftime horn.
Bland County misfired on its first 12 shots from the floor in the second half and the Maroon Tide took full advantage. Hailey Cassell’s 3-pointer pushed the lead past 20 points, 40-19, at the 6:14 mark, Lindsey scored seven points and Paige Hanks’ trey capped the run with 2:17 left in the third for a 51-20 lead.
The Bears hit their first field goal of the second half when Amber Eaton scored on a layup with 3:41 left in the game.
Ten different Maroon Tide players wound up in the scoring column, led by Lindsey with 16 points and eight rebounds. Bryant scored 10 of her 14 in the second quarter and four other Galax player scored between six and eight points each.
Eaton led Bland County with nine points.
Galax forced 16 first-half turnovers, 28 for the game, and dominated the backboards 45-27 as eleven different Maroon Tide players had at least one rebound in the second half alone.
Bland County........4 15 3 11––33
Galax...................16 17 21 15––54
Bland County (12-8, 5-4)
J.Davis 1 0-0 2, Blessing 1 2-2 4, E.Brinkley 0 0-0 0, Morgan 1 0-0 2, Eaton 4 1-2 9, P.Brinkley 2 0-1 5, Dean 3 0-0 6, Harris 0 5-8 5, Williams 0 0-0 0, Gamiano 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 8-13 33.
Galax (18-3, 9-0)
Russell 3 0-0 7, White 3 1-2 7, Bryant 5 2-3 14, Ha.Cassell 3 1-2 8, S.Davis 1 0-0 2, Ayers 1 4-5 6, Reynolds 0 0-0 0, Hanks 1 1-2 4, Vaughan 1 1-2 3, Ho.Cassell 0 0-0 0, Lindsey 7 2-4 16, Mohr 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 12-20 54.
Three-point field goals – Bland County 1-16 (P.Brinkley), Galax 5-16 (Bryant 2, Russell, Ha.Cassell, Hanks). Rebounds – Bland County 27 (Harris 6), Galax 45 (Lindsey 8). Turnovers – Bland County 27, Galax 19. Team fouls – Bland County 13, Galax 11. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.
JV – Galax won.