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The general sentiment among Galax basketball fans Wednesday upon hearing the news of a just-added game against USA Today’s No. 1-ranked Oak Hill Academy (30-0) was probably along the lines of ‘Oh boy!’ A few hours later the attitude may have been a lot closer to simply, ‘Oy.’
The Maroon Tide trailed for most of the night before a late surge, and then had to hold off a final desperate Tazewell flurry before escaping with a 75-73 nondistrict win over the Bulldogs.
“That was by far the ugliest game we’ve had in two years,” said Galax coach Verl Brown after his team won its 29th straight and its 36th in the past 37 games. “We did everything in the world to give it away. We gave up more points in the first half than in most of the games we’ve played.”
The Maroon Tide (14-0) took its first lead since 3-2 on a Austin Pack 3-pointer with 2:44 left in the third quarter and seemed to have the win in hand after an 8-2 run gave Galax a 73-67 lead with less than a minute remaining in the game. But the final 55 seconds were a microcosm of the Tide’s night as poor interior defense and slipshod offensive play nearly gave the game back to the Bulldogs (8-8).
Jalen Jordan scored on a driving layup for Tazewell and Blake Hash picked off Galax’s careless inbounds pass under the Bulldog basket, scoring while drawing a foul with 50 seconds to go. Hash’s missed fee throw attempt was gathered by teammate Ryan Hankins, and following a timeout Tazewell found itself once again in a tie game after John Walker’s runner hit the mark with 16 seconds to play.
Deion George dribbled the length of the floor and scored on a leaner from the lane for Galax with six seconds to play, and the outcome wasn’t settled until the Bulldogs’ Christian Lewis lost the ball under the Tazewell basket amid heavy contact in the final seconds.
“We were in pretty good shape and the next thing you know it was a six-point swing,” Brown. “I was just praying they didn’t hit a three to beat us.”
Galax was playing without starting center Lawrence Parsons, who was ill, and the big guy’s absence was evident as Tazewell hauled in 19 offensive rebounds, scoring a dozen second-chance points. The slashing style of the Tazewell guards were also a perfect fit against a Tide defense that had been accustomed to having Parsons in the middle as a stopper.
“I was disappointed in how we got beat off the dribble,” Brown said. “It wasn’t just one, they had three kids beat us off the dribble and we didn’t have any backside help. It made us realize how much we miss Lawrence because he takes away a lot of that coming into the middle.”
A Hankins putback and a layup by Hash had Tazewell out in front 19-11 late in the first quarter, and though the Bulldogs were never able to pull away, Galax had trouble finding the bucket even on layups and could only keep within striking distance for most of the first three quarters, trailing 44-38 at halftime. George’s floater followed by transition buckets by Pack and Devonte McKinney finally put Galax in front 59-58 with 2:44 of the third for the Tide’s first lead since the opening minutes.
Colin Hancock, nephew of former Galax standout Marc Quesenberry, tied the game at 65 for Tazewell with 5:01 to go but the surge Galax had waited on finally came when McKinney scored in transition and the put in a miss to spark an 8-2 run for a 73-67 lead with 1:06 to go.
Pack hit a dozen field goals and finished with a career-high 29 points to lead Galax while McKinney and George scored 16 points each. Those three also grabbed nine rebounds apiece.
Jordan dropped in 23 points and Walker added 19 points for Tazewell, which was playing without forward Noah Walker, who was injured in a 12-point loss to Carroll County the previous night.
“We’ve got to learn to go with who we’ve got on the court,” Brown said. “I thought we got some good minutes from Donte Peoples and Jordan Vaughan and Jacob Kohl tonight.”
Tazewell......21 23 16 13––73
Galax...........17 21 21 16––75
Lewis 3 6-6 12, Hash 4 0-1 9, Hancock 1 0-0 3, Walker 9 0-0 19, Jordan 9 3-5 23, Hankins 2 3-4 7. Totals 28 12-20 73.
Peoples 0 0-0 0, Hanks 4 2-2 10, Vaughan 1 0-0 2, Pack 12 4-5 29, George 7 0-0 16, Garvey 0 0-0 0, McKinney 8 0-2 16, Kohl 1 0-0 2. Totals 33 6-9 75.
Three-point field goals – Tazewell 5-16 (Jordan 2, Hash, Hancock), Galax 3-16 (George 2, Pack). Rebounds – Tazewell 38 (Hankins 13), Galax 40 (Pack, George, McKinney 9). Turnovers – Tazewell 18, Galax 18. Team fouls – Tazewell 10, Galax 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.