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INDEPENDENCE –– Playing an average of a game every two days for a month will take its toll on a team’s legs. Galax’s had just enough spring in them to keep a step ahead of the rest of the district.
In danger of falling into a three-way tie for the Mountain Empire District lead, the Maroon Tide made a two-point lead stand up through two late Grayson County possessions and escaped with a 63-61 thriller Friday night.
“Just a typical Galax-Grayson County ballgame,” Galax coach Verl Brown said. “We’re playing a lot of games and we’re trying to look into peoples’ eyes and look at their legs, but you can’t make excuses. This is the time of year when you play off of guts.”
Galax (17-1 overall, 7-1 district) hadn’t lost in more than a year when it fell Wednesday at Fort Chiswell, and Grayson County (12-8, 5-3) had its chances to make it two in three days for the Tide. Galax’s Devonte McKinney hit one of two foul shots for what would be the final two-point margin, though the Blue Devils had 25 seconds with which to work after McKinney’s shot.
A traveling violation under the Grayson basket with 14 seconds left returned the ball to Galax, but Deion George was off the mark on two free throws, the second rebounded by Grayson’s Max Rodgers with 10 seconds left. Following a timeout, Ty Cannaday raced upfloor, cut to the right corner and let fly a potential winning 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. George grabbed the rebound and avoided any Blue Devil contact until the final few seconds ticked away.
Grayson County coach Lucas Austin was fine with the shot selection on the final play. What happened before it and after it was what gnawed at him.
“That second-to-last possession, we got the ball and we had one timeout. I decided to just play ball,” he said. “Maybe I should have called timeout. But we got the ball underneath and got a walk call.”
Of the final possession, he said, “We wanted to get the ball into our best ballhandler’s hands and let him put up a shot. But we didn’t crash the boards. Ty had three guys on him but we didn’t have any cutters going to the basket. He shot with plenty of time, if we had anybody in the paint, for us to get a stickback. We played with poise all night, and we didn’t the last two possessions.”
The latest installment in a series of nailbiters for Galax, prospects were fairly bleak for the Tide midway through the third period. Starting center Lawrence Parsons had picked up his fourth foul 48 seconds into the second half and Landon Frost hit two free throws to give Grayson a 42-31 lead at the 5:33 mark.
Bolstered in part by what may have been the best eight minutes of Travis Garvey’s career, the Maroon Tide battled back to tie it by the end of the third. The senior reserve center had three steals that led to Galax transition buckets, grabbed three rebounds – including an offensive board that set up a George basket to put the Tide in front for good – and a huge three-point play with 5:19 left in the game to cap a 14-4 run that gave the Galax a 55-49 lead. He finished with nine points.
“The guys off the bench gave us a lot of good minutes,” Brown said. “I have been looking for that out of Travis all year. He had a couple of big rebounds, made a couple of stops and he hit a two or three big baskets for us.”
Frost was lighting it up outside for Grayson while Parsons dominated the paint for the Tide in the first eight minutes. Frost hit three 3-pointers in the first five minutes as he and Parsons both scored 11 first-period points. Grayson took command with a 14 straight second-period points but Galax owned the latter part of the third quarter as the two entered the fourth knotted at 48-all.
Brown was thankful it ended in regulation.
“That last shot, I thought it was going in,” he said. “If it goes into overtime, I’ve got one starter on the bench and four more with four fouls. It would definitely have been to their advantage if they had gotten it to overtime.”
McKinney led all scorers with 21 points for the Tide and Frost had 19 for Grayson.
Galax........................18 9 21 15––63
Grayson County......15 21 12 13––61
Galax (17-1, 7-1)
Peoples 0 0-0 0, Hanks 1 1-2 3, Vaughan 0 0-0 0, Pack 3 1-1 7, George 4 3-8 11, Garvey 4 1-1 9, McKinney 7 7-8 21, Parsons 6 0-1 12, Kohl 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 13-21 63.
Grayson County (12-8, 5-3)
Frost 5 6-8 19, Cannaday 5 1-1 12, Roberts 0 0-0 0, Rudy 2 0-0 4, Williams 1 0-0 3, Rodgers 2 6-8 11, Wyatt 3 0-1 6, Bedsaul 3 0-0 6, Anders 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 13-28 61.
Three-point field goals – Galax 0-5, Grayson County 6-20 (Frost 3, Cannaday, Williams, Rodgers). Rebounds – Galax 35 (Pack 8), Grayson County 34 (Rodgers 9). Turnovers – Galax 20, Grayson County 16. Team fouls – Galax 18, Grayson County 20. Fouled out – Pack, Wyatt. Technical fouls – none.
JV – Galax won.