By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. — Tazewell just could not over the Hill.
Colby Hill drilled in 26 points but his dead-on 10-foot jumper with less than 10 seconds to play was the night’s biggest bucket and lifted Graham to a 69-67 non-district triumph over the visiting Bulldogs Tuesday.
Tazewell had rallied from a 16-point second quarter deficit to tie the score on Jesse Mountain’s two clutch free throws with 31 seconds left in the fourth period. Hill had earlier dropped in a crucial three-pointer to help blunt a Tazewell run as the horn sounded to end the third quarter.
Tazewell missed a three-point try for the game winner with the ball airborne at the final second.
Noah Walker led Tazewell with 20 points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots, and three steals despite fouling out in the final period.
“That last play was a double screen down low, and actually it didn’t work out, but I credit Tony (Hood) because he looked for me, got it to me, and I took it to the bucket and hit that little floater,” grinned Hill.
“I thank my teammates for having confidence in me in a situation like that and the coaches for drawing up a play that had me in it. This was a great game for us to win — we picked up ‘double-A’ points in the Virginia High School League ratings and that’s big at this point in the season.”
Graham (12-4) topped the Dogs (5-11) for the second time.
Spencer Sheets, who fired in five treys in Graham’s 70-63 win earlier this season, drilled in a trio of three-pointers in the opening stanza and Hill high-stepped inside and outside with 10 first quarter points as the dynamic duo anchored a 24-11 G-Men surge after one over the cold-shooting Bulldogs.
Graham’s relentless early defense sparkled with a flurry of takeaways to assist the offensive onslaught. Sheets was battling through an ankle injury which had sidelined him for the previous two games.
The battling Bulldogs overcame the early deficit and nearly secured the win behind a hot hand in the second half. Tazewell outscored the G-Men in both the third and fourth quarters after a buzzer-beating shot by the persistent Hill at the break.
Noah Walker began to turn the tide in Tazewell’s favor in the third stanza, hitting back-to-back buckets and the Bulldogs closed to within six points, 40-34, with six minutes to go.
Hill answered for the G-Men and Zach Proffitt scooped in a bucket in heavy traffic as once again Graham forged ahead to an 11-point advantage.
Mountain sparked the Dogs in the final moments of the third frame with two coast-to-coast scores and a free throw mixed in and Tazewell was down only three points, 47-44, in the last minute of the third period.
The final eight minutes were a see-saw battle between the two county rivals. Both Walker and Proffitt fouled out before the festivities ended, with the biggest lead a seven-point Graham advantage on a Sheets trey at the 5:50 mark, seconds before Hood picked up his fourth foul.
He was able to play around that, biding his time for the big assist at the end.
“We came up short,” said Tazewell coach Lee Walker. “We battled back all night and had a great effort. I’m proud of all my players. You can’t ask for more than they gave tonight.”
Isaac Santana had a pair of scores for the Dogs in the closing moments and Jalen Jordan nailed a trey plus a foul shot as Tazewell relentlessly cut into the deficit.
Jonathan Figueroa, however, made a pair of free throws with just over three minutes left which proved pivotal in the result.
Proffitt made a big bucket, sending the G-Men in front 66-62, but Santana took an offensive rebound to the net and Tazewell closed to 66-65 before Hood notched a freebie for Graham. Mountain’s two free throws were the final points for Tazewell.
“I’ve been worried about Tazewell all year — both games,” said Graham coach Glynn Carlock. “You can ask any coach in southwest Virginia, they are one of the most athletic teams we face. Every player they have can score.
“We were able to do something we do in practice, it’s an alternative, and fortunately our guys are familiar with it. Colby decided the off-the-dribble option was the best for us. He made a good play, a good decision, so credit Colby. He had a big night and we expect that.
“Spencer (Sheets) played well coming off an injury — that was big. Zach had a good game in the paint, too. Tony made some big plays at the right time. Jonathan Figueroa showed a lot of confidence, making those two big free throws, that was a key tonight.”
Tazewell had a tough night at the line, hitting 10-of-23 at the stripe. Graham scored 16 points in 25 tries.
Sheets dropped in 17 points and had four treys while Hill added three from downtown for the winners. Hood scored 11 for the G-Men, including 5-of-6 at the line and Proffitt netted 10.
Jordan had 14 points for the Bulldogs, and Mountain scored 12 with a big board night, grabbing 7 rebounds. Santana got 8 points.
The G-Men host Galax in a Mountain Empire District doubleheader Thursday at Graham Middle School with the girls beginning at 6 p.m. and the boys at 7:30. Tazewell travels to Carroll County Friday for a Southwest District twinbill with girls playing at 6 and boys at 7:30 p.m.
At Graham Middle School
Noah Walker 20, Christian Lewis 2, Juwan Jordan 5, Isaac Santana 8, Colin Hancock 6, Jalen Jordan 14, Jesse Mountain 12.
Tony Hood 11, Spencer Sheets 17, Colby Hill 26, Jonathan Figueroa 2, Zach Proffitt 10, Roman Workman 3.
Tazewell.............11 17 16 23 — 67
Graham..............24 16 10 19 — 69
Three-point goals – TAZ 3 (Hancock 2, Jordan 1). GRA 7 (Sheets 4, Hill 3). Fouled out – TAZ, Walker; GRA, Proffitt.