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ELLISTON –– Basketball players at Parry McCluer High School are well-taught the fundamentals of the game by longtime coach Nelson Fox. The Fighting Blues will hit their free throws, they don’t often turn the ball over and they are normally adept at the lost art of the midrange jumper.
But as many a football coach has lamented the fact that you can’t coach speed, not even Fox can coach size.
Galax used its decisive advantage in that category Saturday to overpower Parry McCluer in the second half, pulling away for a 69-53 win in the Region C Division 1 boys’ championship game at Eastern Montgomery High School.
The Maroon Tide (24-2) led 29-27 at halftime when it made a concerted effort to work the ball inside. Galax forward Devonte McKinney and center Lawrence Parsons responded with 31 second-half points, leading the Tide to its second straight region crown.
“That was the first thing we addressed when we went in [at halftime],” Galax coach Verl Brown said. “Devonte has been super for us all year. Everybody double-teams the big boy in the middle so we put a couple of new offenses in. Once we started pounding the ball inside, that made a big difference in the ballgame.”
All the difference in the world, really.
Fourteen of the Maroon Tide’s 29 first-half shots were 3-point attempts as Parry McCluer (22-5) hung within two points at the break. Galax cut the 3-point attempts to three in the second half and shot nearly 60 percent from the floor as it pulled away. The 6-6 Parsons worked just below the foul line while McKinney at 6-4 roamed the baseline against the Parry McCluer zone.
“We added like five plays for our post men, and [coach] told us we just needed to throw it in and stop jacking threes,” said McKinney, who scored a game-high 22 points. “People like to double Lawrence because he’s such a big factor, and when they double him it leaves me open in the lower post. When they do come down on me, Lawrence has a free lane to drive.”
Parsons used such a situation to dribble once from the foul line and deliver a powerful right-handed jam for a 58-43 lead with 2:54 to go. He finished with 18 points and 10 boards. Austin Pack chipped in 10 points, eight in the first half.
“Their kids inside are very tough to defend,” said Fox. “Wasn’t a whole lot we could do. We tried switching defenses up, playing it different ways, but wherever we went, they countered it.”
Parsons’ two-hand flush had Galax up by five early but Parry McCluer surged into a 26-22 lead in the half as Zach Stinnett scored eight of his 14 points in the second period. Chandler Quesenberry countered with a 3-pointer as the Tide finished the half with a 7-1 run.
The Blues were just 2 of 10 from the floor in the third period.
“We just missed them,” Fox said. “We knew we’d have to hit the 15-foot jumper because against Galax you don’t get too many second shots.”
After missing their first nine 3-pont attempts, the Blues hit 6 of 8 in the fourth quarter, but to no avail.
Both teams advance to the state quarterfinals. Galax will take on Region D runner-up Castlewood (19-8) Friday at 7 p.m. at the Salem Civic Center, while Parry McCluer travels to Virginia High on Saturday to face Region D champion Hurley (22-3).
Parry McCluer......12 15 5 20––52
Galax....................15 14 17 23––69
Parry McCluer (22-5)
Caputo 2 0-0 6, Armstrong 3 0-0 7, Patterson 2 0-0 4, Stinnett 4 6-6 14, Turner 3 2-4 8, Fitzgerald 4 0-0 11, Winters 0 0-0 0, Henderson 0 2-2 2, Fix 0 0-0 0, Camden 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 10-13 52.
Hanks 2 0-0 5, Pack 4 0-1 10, George 3 3-5 9, McKinney 10 2-3 22, Parsons 8 2-2 18, C.Quesenberry 1 0-0 3, Garvey 1 0-0 2, S.Peoples 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 7-11 69.
Three-point field goals – Parry McCluer 6-20 (Fitzgerald 3, Caputo 2, Armstrong), Galax 4-17 (Pack 2, C.Quesenberry, Hanks). Rebounds – Parry McCluer 27 (Turner 8), Galax 37 (Parsons 10). Turnovers – Parry McCluer 9, Galax 8. Team fouls – Parry McCluer 11, Galax 12. Fouled out – Fitzgerald, Patterson. Technical fouls – none.