Maroon Tide rides D to win

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By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

After needing four overtimes and an unbelievable fourth-quarter explosion to come out with victories in its previous three games, Galax was finally able to breathe easy down the stretch.

It’s a good thing defense never experiences a shooting slump.

Galax managed just 23 first-half points two days after scoring 34 in one quarter, but the Maroon Tide relied on its defense to jump-start its offense in the third quarter Friday, racing away from Bland County for a 61-41 Mountain Empire District win, its eighth in a row.

“It was nice to know it’s not going into overtime, or that you’re not 12 points down going into the fourth quarter,” Galax coach Verl Brown said. “It was exciting to see us get our defense going. That’s where we’re going to have to score, because we are not an offensive team.”

After a week of living dangerously in tight wins over Narrows, Oak Hill and Pocahontas, the Maroon Tide (11-3 overall, 4-0 district) looked to be in for another nailbiter, leading the Bears just 23-17 at halftime. But Galax set the tone early in the second half, coming up with steals on Bland’s first four possessions. Three of the steals – all by G Zachary – led to transition buckets, and the Tide quickly stretched its lead to 31-17 on a Jeremiah Criner 15-foot jumper at 6:20 of the third.

Bland County (7-7, 3-2) answered Galax’s 8-0 run with a pair of buckets by Jared Hagan, but Galax countered with another 8-0 run. Aundrey Sams sparked the spurt with a steal and an acrobatic save to Criner, who fed Sams for a lay-in. Criner’s free throws at the 3:06 mark had Galax leading 39-21.

The Bears were still within 11 points following a Korey Kennedy layup to start the fourth, but the Maroon Tide ended any comeback hopes with a16-4 blitz. All but two of Galax’s points were scored in transition, including a Zachary layup for the Tide’s largest lead, 57-35, with 3:10 to play.

“I felt like we had more depth, and I felt like we could run them and get them tired and wear them down,” Brown said.

The night didn’t start off in such a flurry for either team as Scott Alouf’s free throw nearly five minutes into the game was the first point scored by either team. Alouf followed with a steal and a layup, and Drew Burnett added a stickback before Bland finally got on the board at 1:30 of the first on a Nicholas Leighton putback. Bland struggled to an 0-for-7 start as Galax led 10-3 after one.

Cameron Frazier led a balanced Galax scoring attack with 11 points, while five other Tide player added between six and nine points each.

Hagan led all scorers with 11 points for Bland County.

Bland County 3 14 11 13––41

Galax 10 13 18 20––61

Bland County (7-7, 3-2)

Shrader 2 0-2 4, Kr.Kennedy 3 0-1 7, Robertson 1 0-0 3, Ky.Kennedy 1 3-4 5, Ko.Kennedy 1 1-2 3, Leighton 2 2-5 6, Hagan 5 1-1 11, Reed 0 1-4 1, Eastep 0 1-2 1. Totals 15 9-21 41.

Galax (11-3, 4-0)

Sexton 2 0-0 5, Frazier 5 0-0 10, Alouf 3 1-2 7, Sams 2 5-5 9, Burnett 3 0-2 6, Zachary 4 0-2 8, Bartlett 2 0-0 4, Criner 3 2-2 8, Adams 2 0-2 4. Totals 26 8-15 61.

Three-point field goals – Bland County 2-19 (Kr.Kennedy, Robertson), Galax 1-14 (Sexton). Rebounds – Bland County 45 (Hagan 9), Galax 43 (Criner, Zachary 6). Turnovers – Bland County 34, Galax 24. Team fouls – Bland County 14, Galax 19. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.

JV – Galax 73-27.