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MAX MEADOWS -- The Galax boys’ basketball team isn’t particularly afraid of the number 13. But seeing the 13 disappear can be rather disturbing.
One year after losing a 13-point second-half lead and the region title game to Eastern Montgomery, Galax watched all but four points of a 13-point third-period cushion evaporate Friday before pulling away for an 82-69 win Friday in the Region C Division 1 championship game at Fort Chiswell High School.
Though both teams advance to the Division 1 state quarterfinals, the Maroon Tide will get to play near home against the Region D runner-up, while EastMont will travel to the far southwest to face the Region D champ.
For a while, though, it looked as if recent history might repeat itself. Trailing 45-32 at the break, the Mustangs (21-4) climbed back to within 65-61 on a Laquin Khalil bucket from the lane with 4:33 to play. But Scott Alouf hit two foul shots, turned Justin Hash passes into layups on back-to-back possessions and then sank two more from the foul line to stretch the lead back to 76-64 with 1:23 to play. The Tide (25-2) then hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:13 to seal the win.
“I said, ‘Not again, not again, we’ve got to win this one,’ ” said Alouf, a senior who finished with a game-high 33 points. “Coach just told us to take our time, handle the ball and it’ll come. We’ll win the game if we rebound and don’t turn the ball over.”
Galax built its big halftime lead despite giving up 15 offensive rebounds (EastMont had 19 total boards at the break) and taking 18 fewer shots than the Mustangs’ 43. But the Maroon Tide made the most of its chances, shooting 64 percent (16-of-25) in the first 16 minutes. That included seven 3-pointers on 12 attempts.
Galax trailed 25-20 on Henry Hall’s trey to start the second period, but Justin Hash swished a 3-pointer and Alouf knocked down a pair of bombs to spark a game-turning rally. Beginning with Alouf’s three at the 4:46 mark of the second, Galax finished the half on a 19-3 run. Kyle Adams scored twice from inside, Alouf added two more 3-pointers and Cameron Frazier’s driving layup ended the half with Galax ahead 45-32.
“I told them that at this time last year we were up 13, and the two things we stressed in the locker room at halftime was rebounding on the defensive end and taking care of the ball down the stretch,” Maroon Tide coach Verl Brown said after bringing Galax its first region basketball championship since 1972. “The thing that impresses me about EastMont, they are young but they are very talented. We’re fortunate to win, because that’s a good ball team.”
That was evident in the first half, undeniable in the second half. Keyed by sophomore Julian Stewart, who finished with 22 points, the Mustangs opened the third period with a 13-4 run, closing to 49-45 on Adam Sisson’s 3-pointer at the 4:30 mark. Galax held EastMont at bay with big buckets from Deion George and Tyler Houk, taking a 58-50 lead into the fourth, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Shawn Christian and Brad Wooten pulled the Mustangs to within 63-59 with 5:29 remaining.
Galax got some breathing room with layups from Hash and Frazier before finishing strong.
“Anytime you can beat that team, it’s great, because they’re such a good basketball team,” said Alouf. “Last year we were up 13 and they came back and beat us, and we get a 13-point lead this time, we had to keep it.”
“This is our fourth time in the region finals in my 12 years,” Brown said. “It’s the first time we finished our job of winning the Region C championship, and only the second time in the history of the school. I would have never dreamed, after losing eight players and an assistant coach from last year, that we’d get this far. It’s a tremendous job by the players.”
Alouf also had a team-high 12 rebounds, while Adams added a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Hash and Frazier provided 14 points apiece.
Along with Stewart’s 22 points, the Mustangs got 12 points from Hall.
E. Montgomery 22 10 18 19––69
Galax 20 25 13 24––82
Eastern Montgomery (21-4)
Christian 4 0-1 9, Wooten 3 0-2 9, Stewart 10 2-4 22, Sisson 2 0-0 6, Khalil 3 1-2 7, Hall 4 1-2 12, Motley 2 0-0 4, Raines 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 4-10 69.
Hash 5 4-7 14, Frazier 4 5-6 14, Alouf 10 9-10 33, Houk 1 2-2 4, Adams 7 1-5 15, George 1 0-2 2. Totals 27 21-32 82.
Three-point field goals – Eastern Montgomery 9-36 (Wooten 3, Hall 3, Sisson 2, Christian), Galax 7-23 (Alouf 4, Hash 2, Frazier). Rebounds – Eastern Montgomery 46 (Khalil 11), Galax 49 (Alouf 12). Turnovers – Eastern Montgomery 17, Galax 23. Steals – Eastern Montgomery 14, Galax 8. Team fouls – Eastern Montgomery 24, Galax 10. Fouled out – Khalil, Motley. Technical fouls – none.