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Panthers man up on Tide

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Foregoing a zone in favor of a sticky man-to-man, Twin Valley ruins Galax’s final four bid.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

DUBLIN -- Twin Valley may not play much man-to-man defense, but the Panthers showed they have definitely practiced it.

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Employing a seldom-used man defense from start to finish, Twin Valley kept Galax’s long-range shooters out of sync nearly all night, running away with a 77-61 win in the Group A Division 1 quarterfinals Friday at Pulaski County High School.

The Region C champion Maroon Tide (25-3) hit just two first-quarter field goals and trailed by 18 points after a little more than eight minutes. The rest of the night was spent waiting for a comeback that never materialized.

“The big thing was the way we started,” said Galax coach Verl Brown. “We talked all week about getting off to a good start. We knew sooner or later this could happen, and it finally caught up with us.”

Twin Valley (22-5) showed no ill effects from its long journey from Pilgrim’s Knob, connecting on 11 of its first 14 attempts from the floor. Trailing only once, 2-0, the Panthers scored 17 unanswered points to take command and led 29-11 at 6:16 of the second.

Garrett Horne had 10 points in the first period, finishing with 20.

“We’d been working on a man-to-man all week,” said Horne. “Everybody thought we’d play a 2-3 because they shoot the ball so well, and we knew we could match up with them. We’ve got quickness, we just like to keep it in tight most of the time.”

Nor were the Panthers fazed by Galax’s pressure defense.

“We had 10 people playing defense on us all week,” Horne said. “Coach just told us to be patient and we’d get the ball inside. Once the threes started falling they started coming out on us and that left the inside game open.”

Galax was able to get to within 14 points late in the first half on a pair of Kyle Adams foul shots, but a Carter Burniston 3-pointer to close the half sent Twin Valley into the break leading 39-22.

“We knew how they like to play, so we just spent the last four days trying to be Galax as much as possible,” said Panthers coach Brian Moore, who saw the Tide hit a dozen 3-pointers in one half on a scouting trip. “We prefer to play a 2-3, but we respected that too much to do anything else.”

“It was hard to get shots,” said Justin Hash, Galax’s sophomore point guard, who finished with four treys and 25 points. “They were all in your face. We expected a 2-3 and we didn’t really execute on offense until the second half. That’s what got us.”

The Region D runner-up Panthers had taken this route in reaching the Division 1 final four a year ago, stumbling in the region final and bouncing back to knock off Region C champion Eastern Montgomery in the state quarters.

“The past couple of games, we’ve come out really sluggish and we haven’t really played up to our potential,” said Hunter Simpson, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. “This week we were really focused on what we had to do. This game is win or go home.”

“That’s one good thing about a regional championship,” Horne said. “You always get another chance. We got to hit the reset button.”

Galax seniors Cameron Frazier and Scott Alouf, who averaged 35 points between them, managed a total of two 3-pointers and 13 points against the Panthers.

“They were switching on all the screens and making it hard to get open,” Frazier said. “They were pushing us so far out we couldn’t really get into our offense.”

Galax trailed by as many as 24 in the second half, never getting closer than 13 points.

“They were more impressive tonight than when I saw them in their tournament,” Brown said. “They played a good hard man-to-man and denied us our offense, and they hit shots. Everything we did they had an answer.”

Twin Valley 21 18 17 21––77

Galax 5 17 19 20––61

Twin Valley (22-5)

Shortridge 3 2-4 9, Horne 8 2-2 20, Smith 7 1-1 15, Simpson 6 7-9 21, Keene 1 2-3 4, Viers 0 2-2 2, Burniston 1 0-1 3, St.Claire 1 0-0 3, Adams 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 16-22 77

Galax (25-3)

Hash 8 5-7 25, Frazier 2 3-3 8, Alouf 1 2-2 5, Houk 0 5-5 5, Adams 2 4-8 8, Martin 0 0-0 0, George 5 0-1 10, Snyder 0 0-0 0, Douglas 0 0-0 0, Harris 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 19-26 61.

Three-point field goals – Twin Valley 7-13 (Horne 2, Simpson 2, Burniston, Shortridge, St.Claire), Galax 6-25 (Hash 4, Alouf, Frazier). Rebounds – Twin Valley 37 (Simpson 11), Galax 29 (George 7). Turnovers – Twin Valley 21, Galax 16. Steals – Twin Valley 8, Galax 8. Team fouls – Twin Valley 19, Galax 16. Fouled out – Houk.