Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 25, 2014

Narrows sweeps season series from Bears

ROCKY GAP, Va. — If the 3s aren’t dropping, the answer is inside.

Chander Burton scored nine of his 23 points in a 22-point third quarter, helping Narrows sweep the season series from Bland County with a 51-39 Mountain Empire District victory at a toasty and packed Rocky Gap High School.

Burton led Narrows (9-5) with 23 points, including 14 in the second half, and Brandon Spangler added 10 points, including six in the deciding three period in which the Green Wave took the ball to the basket when the 3s simply wouldn’t drop.

“I think somewhere around halftime we were looking at some of our stats and we were 1-for-20 from the 3-point line in the last two games up until that point,” Narrows head coach Chris Gautier said. “We discussed it and we weren’t going to take any more shots from the perimeter, we were going to attack the basket and we did that and we saw better things in the second half.”

While Narrows is used to getting production from Burton, Gautier urged Spangler to provide more after the break, and he did just that.

“Spangler really stepped up, I came down hard on him at halftime and he really responded,” Gautier said. “That is what we need from him every night because he is more than capable.

“We weren’t getting it from him there in the first half at all. I am really proud of the way he stepped up.”

Part of those issues came from Bland County (2-10), which led 21-18 at the break, with Mason Christian scoring nine of his 13 points to give the Bears the halftime lead.

“We just started playing in the second half,” Gautier said. “That may have been the worst half of basketball we played all year. We just turned up the intensity a little bit in the second half and that led to some easy buckets for us down the stretch.”

A first half that featured five ties and four lead changes had just one change after the break. Rodney Perdue drove to the basket and banked in a shot to put the Green Wave up to stay at 22-21 with 5:40 to go in the third quarter.

“Their quickness out front, that scramble type of defense in the half-court gave us a little trouble, the third quarter in particular,” Bland County head coach Rich Hankins said. “It turned a real close basketball game into a 6 or 8 point deficit for us.

“I am pleased with my kids, they fought hard, they fought from start to finish and without a doubt I think we are getting a little bit better.”

Perdue, who injured his ankle in the fourth quarter, but returned for the Green Wave, makes a difference with the ball in his hands. He had seven points, while handling the ball for Narrows.

“He is very quick with the basketball,” Hankins said. “He gave us a little problem size wise, we couldn’t really defend him.”

“We definitely need him on the floor,” added Gautier, who didn’t have him for portions of the first half with two fouls.

Narrows just kept taking the ball in the basket in the third, outscoring the Bears 22-9 in the third period, capping it off with  a 3-point pointer by Burton with 3.8 seconds on the clock to give the Green Wave a 40-30 lead.

Bland County pulled within one, at 28-27 on a layup by Zach Gwyn, but the Green Wave outscored the Bears 12-3 the remainder of the period.

Narrows managed to stay ahead by at least seven points in the final period, with the Green Wave making 7-of-8 from the charity stripe to finish 15-of-20 for the game.

“I told my kids that 3-point play at the end of the third quarter on an offensive stickback changed the momentum a little bit for them in their favor and stretch that lead to 10,” Hankins said. “You have got to give Narrows a lot of credit to come in here and shoot 15 for 20 from the foul line, that is pretty good.”

Burton led all scorers with his 23 points, but Hankins said the talented senior had even more in the Green Wave’s 81-45 win earlier this season in Narrows.

“We knew coming in, he lit us up the first time around for 33,” Hankins said. “Chandler is a really nice player, he has gotten stronger, but my kids, they fought the whole way.”

Narrows returns to the court with three home games next week with Graham, Galax and Fort Chiswell, which should be a good test for the Green Wave as the postseason approaches.

“They are at home so that helps, but three tough ones,” Gautier said. “This will really let us know where we stand in district and going into postseason play before long.”

Bland County, which also received eight points from Tyler Faulkner, will visit Grayson County on Tuesday.

Gautier is looking for his Green Wave, which had dropped four straight after an 8-1 start to the season, was pleased for a return to winning ways, but still wasn’t pleased with what he saw.

“At the end of the day I guess you have got to be pleased with it, but this game right here tells us we have a lot of work to do,” Gautier said. “I think we have taken a step backward in the last couple of games. We have got to find a way to get back where we were.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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