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SPARTA, N.C. –– It’s not exactly the halfway point of the season, but with district play looming, the Christmas break marks the point between when a team needs to get better and when it ought to be better.
If Thursday is any indication, Galax is a lot closer to the latter than the former.
Facing what has traditionally been one of the stronger programs in Region IV, the Maroon Tide overcame a double-digit Patrick County advantage in the fourth quarter to briefly take the lead, only to fall 54-49 at Alleghany High School.
“We are getting better as the year goes along,” Galax coach Yerrick Stoneman said. “If you look at us from the beginning of the year to now, we’re a totally different ballteam. Our district might be one of the toughest single-A districts out there after seeing a few of the other teams. Our district had beaten a lot of teams from the Hogoheegee, we’ve beaten some teams from the Three Rivers, that are supposed to be pretty good, and I think we’re in the mix, because we are improving. If we can continue that we should be in the hunt for the district title.”
The Maroon Tide was almost out of the hunt for a while on Thursday. Galax (5-4) led 26-25 on a Paige Hanks 3-pointer with 4:45 showing in the third quarter, but by the time three minutes had passed, the Cougars (5-4) had surged into a 10-point lead. Galax managed just one field goal and five turnovers in Patrick’s 11-0 spurt while the Cougars hit four straight from the floor, including a Bri Dodson 3-pointer. Dodson, who scored nine of her 12 points in the third, also had a layup in the run, and capped it with two foul shots for a 36-26 lead with 1:52 left in the period.
Patrick’s lead would grow to as large as 13 points, 42-29, just seconds into the fourth quarter before the Maroon Tide turned things around with a 15-2 run.
Susan Davis kick-started Galax with a baseline drive, and the Maroon Tide would go 5-of-8 from the floor in the spurt, holding Patrick to just two free throws over a span of more than six minutes. Galax completed its comeback with back-to-back 3-pointers from Carolyn Vaughan and Hanks, taking a 47-46 lead with 1:42 to go.
“They ran a little 1-3-1 half-court trapping zone and we reversed the ball and got some open looks,” said Stoneman. “Syd [Lindsey] on our press got some deflections and we got a lot of steals off those deflections, and Susan ran the team really good.”
Patrick hit the offensive glass on one key possession to regain control. Hannah Helbert scored on a stickback and was fouled, and Natalie Mitchell put back the missed foul shot for a four-point Cougar possession.
“It wasn’t what cost us the game but we’ve got to keep contact underneath,” Stoneman said. “But we didn’t panic, we kept fighting. They made the free throws late in the ballgame and we didn’t.”
A Davis jumper briefly cut the lead to one with 30 seconds left but Patrick hit four straight free throws down the stretch to ice the win. The Cougars were 10-of-11 from the foul line in the second half, hitting 15-of-18 for the game.
“We came out a little flat in the second half and they got an 11-point lead fairly quick,” Stoneman said. “But I’m proud of my girls the way they battled back, and with a minute to go we had a one-point lead. We’re getting a lot better. We’re hitting open shots. Paige was 4-for-4 from the 3-point line, I think we were 6-of-8 total, but we do need to make free throws more consistently.”
Galax was below 50 percent from the stripe, hitting 11-of-23.
Ebony Reynolds scored 12 first-half points and led all scorers with 23 points to lead the Cougars. Hanks paced Galax with 14 while Vaughan scored 12 and Davis added 10.
Patrick County......13 18 22 14––54
Galax.......................9 12 8 20––49
Patrick County (5-4)
Witt 2 0-0 4, Hines 1 0-0 2, Dodson 3 4-4 12, Reynolds 6 8-10 20, Wilkins 2 2-2 6, Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Helbert 2 2-2 6, Owens 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 16-18 54.
Davis 3 4-8 10, Hanks 4 2-3 14, Vaughan 4 2-3 12, Lindsey 1 2-4 4, Cassell 4 0-2 8, Ayers 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 11-22 49.
Three-point field goals – Patrick County 2-5 (Dodson 2), Galax 6-11 (Hanks 4, Vaughan 2). Rebounds – Patrick County 30 (Reynolds 10), Galax 25 (Lindsey, Cassell 7). Turnovers – Patrick County 19, Galax 24. Team fouls – Patrick County 23, Galax 13. Fouled out – Hines. Technical fouls – none.