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RICHMOND –– “They know how to win,” said Galax coach Verl Brown in the postgame media room.
Boy, do they ever.
Galax capped an incredible four-year run Friday that has brought some of its seniors as many state championship rings as a hand has fingers. The latest bling comes courtesy of a second straight state basketball championship as the Maroon Tide ran away from Amelia County 66-49 in the Group A Division 1 title game at the Siegel Center.
This time around there was no drama, none of late-game heroics that made last year’s state title run so memorable. This one was won in the manner of a team that had been there before and expected to do it again. It was workmanlike, it was dominant and it was relished as the clock wound down.
Most of the of the team was playing in its third state championship game in 13 months, having fallen just short in football back in December. Eddie Hanks earned his fifth state title, adding to the three championships he helped Galax win on the golf course.
“It just keeps you cool and collected when the pressure is on,” he said of his wealth of big-game experience. “All our state championships in golf have been close, and last year in basketball. It helps when the pressure is on.”
There was very little of that on Friday. After battling to a 10-10 deadlock through eight minutes, Galax, which finished 26-2 for the second straight year, began flexing its muscle and opened the second period with eight unanswered points. Hanks’ baseline drive put Galax up 18-10 and the Tide never trailed again, taking a 31-21 lead into intermission as Lawrence Parsons went straight up for a slam to end the half.
Galax used a 9-2 run to open the second half to widen the spread to 17 points, 40-23, while Amelia’s 29-percent first-half shooting declined steadily through the third and fourth quarters. The Raiders were just 10 of 49 in the second half and flailed away from long range, hitting just one of its 22 second-half 3-point tries. Amelia was 4-of-33 behind the arc for the game.
“Shooting 17 for 76, you’re not going to win too many games, let alone a state championship,” Amelia coach Everett Watkins said.
As usual, Parsons was a big part of that, altering some shots and smacking others away. He finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks.
“Just having him back there makes people change their shots,” said Brown. “He doesn’t have to block it but he changed shots all year long.
Still, the Raiders (25-3) hung around and were within 10 points on two Dante Bournes foul shots with 2:57 to play. Parsons and Steven Peoples gave Galax a 14-point cushion with baskets from the paint, and the Tide finished the night at the foul line, hitting 26 of 36 from the stripe on the night.
The outing was the Galax seniors’ last under the sharp eye of assistant coach Mark Dixon, the school’s football boss, who brought his film room talents to the basketball team.
“He was up at 3 or 4 o’clock this morning breaking down film we had just gotten,” Brown said, “and we were up at 7:30 in the film room. That’s the kinds of things he does. He’s used to it and he knows how to do it.”
“For the past couple of weeks, he’s said, ‘Two more weeks of me,’ ” said Pack, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and was 11-of-14 from the foul line. “ ‘Give me all you’ve got for two weeks, and leave your legacy at Galax.’ This morning he said to give me three more hours of your life, and that’s what we did.”
Deion George scored 12 points, running the Tide offense.
“I knew we had to step up after Justin [Hash] graduated,” he said of last year’s state tournament hero. “I never had played point before this year but I knew I had to make plays if I played that position. I just tried to step up to the challenge.”
The loss ended a solid two-year run for Amelia, a football school that won its district in basketball last year after being picked to finish dead last, then defended its title after a preseason fourth-place prediction.
“We’ve been talking about getting this far since we were freshmen, and we got here but just came up short,” said senior Tre Garland. “We’ve been playing together since elementary school on the blacktop, playing rec. ball, it’s just a heartbreaker.”
For Brown, it was a joy.
“We had set a goal, and everybody said all year yall are going to repeat, but I told them all year that’s something hard to do,” he said. “You’re lucky to get back. You’re fortunate to get there one time.”
Galax.....................10 21 12 23––66
Amelia County......10 11 7 21––49
Hanks 1 6-8 8, Pack 3 11-14 17, George 5 2-4 12, McKinney 1 0-0 2, Parsons 7 5-8 19, C.Quesenberry 0 0-0 0, D.Peoples 0 0-0 0, Fisher 0 0-0 0, Vaughan 0 0-0 0, T.Quesenberry 0 0-0 0, Garvey 0 0-0 0, Alouf 1 0-0 2, Peoples 2 2-2 6, Kohl 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 26-36 66.
Amelia County (25-3)
Bournes 2 5-8 12, Williams 0 0-0 0, Garland 3 0-0 10, J.Johnson 7 5-7 19, Wingo 0 0-0 0, Perry 0 0-2 0, Ward 2 1-2 6, Bradley 0 0-0 0, D.Johnson 0 0-0 0, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Haskins 0 0-0 0, Baker 0 0-0 0, M.Johnson 0 0-0 0, Royal 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 11-19 49.
3-point field goals – Galax 0-3, Amelia County 4-33 (Garland 2, Bournes, Ward). Rebounds – Galax 43 (Parsons 14), Amelia County 43 (J.Johnson 14). Assists – Galax 11 (Pack 6), Amelia County 6 (six with 1). Turnovers – Galax 16, Amelia County 10. Team fouls – Galax 17, Amelia County 24. Fouled out – George, Ward. Technical fouls – none.