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RICHMOND –– Once again, Galax found itself trailing by seven points under the bright lights of the Siegel Center, a chance to play in the state championship game on the line.
This time around, no miraculous finish was necessary.
Down 34-27 early in the second half, Galax worked itself into a three-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter and then owned the final eight minutes to roll to a 64-54 win over upstart Charles City in the Group A Division 1 semifinals.
Galax (25-2) had come from seven down in the final 17 seconds of regulation to top Luray in overtime to get to last year’s title game. An entire half with which to cover a seven-point gap was no big deal for a team that played Friday in its third state championship game, in two sports, in the past 13 months.
“We were up three at halftime, and when we came out and scored I thought, We got ‘em,” said Charles City coach Sharone Bailey. “It never fazed them. They settled down, played good defense, worked it inside and just wore us out.”
Starting with an Eddie Hanks 3-pointer at 5:25 of the third, Galax outscored the Panthers 14-3 to the midpoint of the fourth quarter to take a 48-37 lead on a Lawrence Parsons putback.
“We feel like if we can keep it close, from our experience being here, we’ll be in the ballgame,” Galax coach Verl Brown said.
A renewed focus on rebounding and a resurgent Tide transition game was too much for the smaller Panthers to handle.
“The second half, their size just got to us,” Bailey said. “They had 20 blocked shots, we were winning the rebound edge the first half and we ended up losing the rebound edge 45-38, we just ran out of gas. Our height hurt us.”
“We knew if we stick with it, we can always make a comeback,” said Devonte McKinney, who finished with 22 points, six boards and five blocks. “We did it both games last year. It never bothered us.”
Parsons had half of Galax’s state tournament-record 20 rejections and finished with a triple-double of 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks despite sitting the final 6:16 of the first half with two fouls.
“It all started down here last year with his confidence,” Brown said. “Lawrence is big, but he’s just a big baby. He’s just a kid we all love.”
Charles City’s feelings probably weren’t so warm and fuzzy.
“The trees are down there and they’re swatting everything that we put up,” said Bailey. “They did a great job collapsing every time we drove to the basket, great help-side, they were everywhere on the floor.”
Five straight Austin Pack points to close the third sent the Tide into the fourth with a 40-37 lead. Every Galax field goal in the fourth quarter came on either a layup or a stickback as the Tide began stretching the floor.
“We’re not a good shooting team,” Brown said. “We’re a poor free throw shooting team. But if you let us get out and run, that’s our style.”
Pack, who also had 10 assists, benefited with 11 second-half points.
“Everybody’s supposed to box their man, but I saw Deion and Devonte going after the ball,” said Pack, who had four transition layups after halftime.
The full-court game was working in the first quarter as the Tide led 14-6 on a Pack layup before the Panthers (15-10) abandoned their press and forced Galax into a halfcourt game. Jovan Howard’s layup had Charles City in front by the end of the period, and the Panthers maintained the lead most of the second quarter, holding Galax without a field goal for more than three minutes.
“My guys weren’t nervous, they didn’t feel pressure, they were just here to play basketball,” said Bailey, whose team had six two-point losses on the year.
Dominique Williams paced Charles City with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Pack and Deion George scored 15 and 10, respectively, for Galax.
Charles City......17 11 9 17––54
Galax.................16 9 15 24––64
Charles City (15-10)
D.Williams 7 8-9 23, A.Jones 2 0-0 4, Banks 2 0-0 4, Harris 4 4-4 14, D.Jones 0 0-0 0, Carroll 0 0-0 0, Howard 3 2-2 8, J.Williams 0 1-2 1, Kleist 0 0-0 0, R.Jones 0 0-0 0, Cotman 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 15-17 54.
Hanks 2 0-1 5, Pack 7 0-0 15, George 3 4-7 10, McKinney 9 4-5 22, Parsons 5 0-0 10, C.Quesenberry 0 0-0 0, Garvey 1 0-0 2, S.Peoples 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 8-13 64.
3-point field goals – Charles City 3-16 (Harris 2, D.Williams), Galax 2-8 (Hanks, Pack). Rebounds – Charles City 38 (D.Williams 14), Galax 45 (Parsons 14). Assists – Charles City 7 (D.Williams, Cotman 2), Galax 19 (Pack 10). Turnovers – Charles City 13, Galax 22. Team fouls – Charles City 14, Galax 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.