By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
There were times when Richlands had five freshmen on the floor in Monday’s game at Graham.
They might be freshmen in the classroom, but perhaps not in court sense.
Thomas Clarke scored 22 points to lead five Graham scorers in double figures, and the G-Men survived a valiant effort by Richlands to hang on for an 81-71 win at Graham Middle School.
Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr. liked what he saw from the Blue Tornado last summer in the camp circuit, and that opinion hasn’t changed.
“I made the comment to my coaches this summer, ‘That is not a team I would want to play come February,’” Carlock said. “They probably logged a boatload of games and they don’t play like freshmen.”
Definitely. Scottie Ball led Richlands with 19 points, while Cody Fuller tallied 14 and Luke Phillips added 11 for the Blue Tornado, which got 52 of its points from five of his its freshmen.
“I think we are getting better,” Richlands head coach Jody Fuller said. “You want to find that right blend and get right at the right time, that is what we are trying to do.”
Graham (13-6) was able to pull away from a 23-23 second quarter tie to take a 38-32 lead at the break. The lead never grew to more than 13, but the Blues could never get any closer than five in the final period.
“They are good, they are very good,” Fuller said. “Coach Carlock has got a really good team here, he has got players everywhere and they can shoot it too.”
Clarke played one of his better games for the G-Men, taking the ball to the basket, scoring 22 points, along with four rebounds and three assists, as the G-Men reached the 20-point mark in the second quarter and added 26 in the fourth.
“We had two 20-point quarters, we scored 20 in the second period and they matched us with 26 in the final period,” Carlock said. “It was 18-17 (after the first), and we scored 81 points, that is a pretty good output for us score wise.
“We didn’t play that solid of a defensive side of the ball tonight. I felt like we let a lot go, but a big night by Thomas Clarke, he stepped up here and played well.”
It wasn’t just Clarke. Workman added 16 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Tony Hood contributed 13 points, five boards, two steals and two assists, while Colby Hill — who was recognized for his 1,000th point prior to the game — added 17 points and four assists.
“Colby and Tony and Roman are going to be our constants and Nick Morgan played well tonight,” said Carlock, who also got 11 points from Morgan, who is the freshman son of Bluefield College men’s basketball coach Richard Morgan. “I am proud of how they played.”
Richlands, which made 15 3s last Saturday at Twin Valley, had eight in this game, including its first four field goals of the game, but Hill and Morgan had a 3s for Graham for an 18-17 after the first period.
Three consecutive inside buckets by Ball tied the score at 23-23 before the G-Men went on a 7-0 run, eventually building a six-point halftime lead, led by Clarke, who had 17 points, and 13 in the second quarter.
Graham also had seven 3s on 14 attempts, including two each by Hill and Clarke, which was a pleasant sight for Carlock, whose G-Men are showing signs of snapping a recent shooting slump.
“We have not been shooting well,” Carlock said. “We are trying to shoot our way out of a little shooting deal that we have had, that is much better.”
It wasn’t just freshmen for Richlands. The senior duo of Ben Brown and Zach Johnson each scored a basket opening the third quarter, pulling the Blues within a point at 38-37. Johnson had nine points and Brown had eight.
“Ben Brown played big for us, Zach Johnson played big for us tonight and did some really good things,” Fuller said. “If we can get this whole thing to mesh at the right time I am hoping we can make a little magic.”
Carlock won’t be surprised if it happens.
“They shoot the ball extremely well, you cannot leave them alone,” Carlock said. “If you don’t rotate out of your press they will just assume shoot a 3 in transition than take a layup. They have two or three guys, maybe more, who can.”
Graham, which defeated Richlands 78-56 earlier this season, did its own damage from that from, scoring 10 straight points with drives to the hoop to build a 55-45 lead after three quarters, and the Blues could never get closer than 55-50 from there.
“I am proud of getting a win,” said Carlock, whose G-Men will visit Fort Chiswell tonight and host Grayson County on Friday. “They closed the gap a little bit from last time and that is to be expected, but we have to ramp up our intensity as well. We will take the win, we have got a big week.”
Richlands, which will host Abingdon tonight and visit Tazewell on Thursday, also received five points from freshman Landon Lowe, who is still recovering from an injury suffered during football season.
Fuller, whose son, Cody, is one of those freshmen, is excited about what might lie ahead for the Blue Tornado, perhaps even rare postseason success for Richlands boys basketball.
“We hope to, but I am not making no predictions here tonight,” said Fuller, with a smile. “Obviously everyone wants to be playing their best basketball come tournament time. I think we are going in the right direction right now, I feel like it is jelling right now.”
at Graham High School
Luke Phillips 4 0-0 11, Ethan Ratliff 1 0-0 3, Cody Fuller 5 1-1 14, Ben Brown 3 1-2 8, Zach Johnson 4 1-3 9, Grant Herndon 0 0-0 0, Scottie Ball 9 1-2 19, Landon Lowe 2 1-1 5, Anthony Austin 1 0-0 2. Totals 29 5-9 71.
Tony Hood 4 4-5 13, Roman Workman 6 3-5 16, Thomas Clarke 9 2-3 22, Colby Hill 6 3-4 17, Tanner Miller 1 0-0 2, Nick Morgan 4 2-2 11, Ben Meade 0 0-0 0. Totals. 30 14-19 81.
Richlands........17 15 13 26 — 71
Graham...........18 20 17 26 — 81
3-point goals: RL 8 (Phillips 3, Fuller 3, Brown 1, Ratliff 1); GR 7 (Clarke 2, Hill 2, Hood 1, Morgan 1, Workman 1). Total fouls: 16; GR 9. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none.