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BRISTOL –– It hasn’t mattered a great deal over the years whether Radford is in Group AA, Group A or Division 2. Now competing in Group 1A, the Bobcats are still A-1.
Galax battled Radford evenly to the midpoint of the second quarter, but the Bobcats stepped on the gas from there and left the Maroon Tide behind to take a 54-30 win in the Region 1A West title game Saturday at Virginia High. The defending state champion in (no-longer-utilized) Division 2, Radford (25-2) will seek its fourth state title in six years beginning with a semifinal matchup Saturday with East Region runner-up Surry.
Galax (19-5), which won Division 1 state championships in 2011 and 2012, is still very much alive and will take on East champion Altavista in the state semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. at the Salem Civic Center.
The semifinal winners will meet at VCU next Saturday in the state championship game.
Galax trailed by a mere four points, 25-21, after Steven Peoples scored from underneath with 3:09 left in the first half. The Maroon Tide’s next field goal wouldn’t fall until 52 ticks remained in the third quarter. In between, Radford sealed the outcome with a 23-1 run spanning halftime.
“We knew they were going to bring intensity but we hadn’t faced it before,” said Galax forward Caleb Pack, who led the Maroon Tide with 11 points. “It was hard to adjust once we got out there. We just never could settle down and get into our stuff. We never really could adjust to it.”
Pack scored eight of Galax’s first 19 points, mostly from short range.
“Early in the game he gave us what we asked,” Tide coach Verl Brown said. “We wanted to go inside. He took good shots and finished them.”
“They are a hard team to defend because they pass and cut so well,” said Radford coach Rick Cormany. “They run their stuff so well and they execute extremely well. It’s a team you’ve got to be really locked in on defensively if you are going to play man-to-man because they will back-cut you, pass and move, throw a ball screen at you or a hand-off. Second half we decided we were going to start trapping all ball screens and start trapping handoffs.”
Benefitting from heavy Galax foul trouble, the Bobcats scored the final eight points of the first half, starting with 3-pointers from Isaiah Phillips and Marcus Finley. Four Radford players hit from long range in the first half, including three treys by Nate Jones.
“We were trying to guard them one-on-one out front and get help in the lane, but they just made shots outside,” Brown said. “They had five kids on the floor that could shoot it.”
Meanwhile, the Bobcats were locked in on Galax shooter Cliff Conley.
“You’ve got to,” Cormany said. “Every time he comes off a screen, if your man is screening for him you’ve got to hedge out and help. We knew we had to stay in his pocket. We call it ‘punking.’ You’ve just got to punk him because if you’re not careful he’ll hit shots on you.”
After hitting seven 3-pointers in a semifinal win over Eastside, Conley got one good look from behind the arc Saturday – and nailed it – but was limited to those three points.
Radford opened the second half with 14 points interrupted by a lone Peoples free throw, taking a 48-22 lead on Luke Wheeler’s 3-pointer.
“We kind of handled them at first when they were guarding us man-to-man and nobody was tired,” Pack said. “Then it started getting farther into the game and we were getting worn out, and we couldn’t do anything against that trap.”
Jones led Radford with 18 points and Phillips added 12.
Galax..........15 6 3 6––30
Radford......20 14 16 6––56
Merdian 2 2-3 6, Quesenberry 0 0-0 0, Pack 5 1-2 11, Garvey 0 0-0 0, DiGiacomo 0 0-0 0, Conley 1 0-0 3, D.Brown 2 0-0 4, Peoples 1 0-0 2, Matthews 0 2-2 2, Dixon 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 5-7 30.
Cook 2 3-4 7, Finley 3 0-0 7, Phillips 4 3-4 12, Jones 4 6-6 18, Bradley 1 1-2 3, Martin 0 2-4 2, Jordan 0 1-4 1, Facemire 1 0-0 3, Wheeler 1 0-0 3. Totals 16 16-24 56.
Three-point field goals – Galax 1 (Conley), Radford 8 (Jones 4, Finley, Phillips, Facemire, Wheeler). Team fouls – Galax 20, Radford 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.