By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Turn out the Knights, the party’s over. Led by Whitney Saunders and a relentless effort, Tazewell’s Lady Bulldogs (15-11) raced past outgunned Cave Spring 63-40 Tuesday.
Every Lady Bulldog hit the scoring column as Tazewell advanced to the Region IV tournament semifinals. Tip-off will be an early 4 p.m. start at Richlands Middle School against the Lady Blue Tornado with the winner guaranteed a berth in the state tournament.
Cave Spring (7-18) finished its season.
“We had a good effort all around,” noted Lady Dog mentor Jason Southworth. “I thought our defense was strong to begin the game, we passed the ball well, and everybody played together. This was a good win for our whole team.”
Autumn Hash sparked the team in the opening stanza, followed by Saunders pulling the trigger in the middle and Taylor Catron teamed with Alley Lee to bring the Dogs home. In between, set up play from Haley Christian and Kaley Holloway bridged the gaps effectively.
Hash was cooking early, brewing up six quick points in the first three minutes before Cait Flippen put the Lady Knights on the board with a bank off the inside glass, cutting the margin to 6-2. Cave Spring opened some scoring opportunities, but a cold touch in the paint cost the visitors a variety of scoring chances.
Tazewell, taking advantage of the offensive boards behind Hash, Haley Christian, and Saunders, seldom gave the Knights more than one attempt a series.
Saunders scored seven of her game-high 18 points in the second stanza as Tazewell raced to a 29-15 advantage at the break.
“We knew tonight it was now-or-never,” grinned Hash. “We really wanted this game — everybody played hard.”
The junior center scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots for the Bulldogs.
Taylor White helped the Lady Knights keep up the fight, with four quick points opening the second period. Saunders, however, pumped in five straight points including a 20-foot trey. Catron, too, set her sights downtown and closed out the half with a long distance dandy punctuated by Saunders’ final buzzer-beating bucket.
Saunders then scored the first four points in the third stanza, pushing Tazewell’s lead to 35-16 with 6:50 remaining as Tazewell continued to keep the pressure on even as the outcome was becoming evident.
Taylor Asimakopolous then helped Cave Spring to a pair of buckets. The Knights, although behind, kept up a strong effort all game long and battled right through to the final seconds, with White and Hailey Sitze leading the way.
Sitze led Cave Spring with 12 points and poured in seven of those in the third quarter when Cave Spring played the Lady Dogs to within three points in a see-saw struggle. Cassi Parulis also had a solid game for Cave Spring and was next in line with seven points.
Saunders never let up, with or without the ball, however, and Tazewell fed off that energy throughout the game.
“I just did what I thought I had to do to help my teammates,” said the green-and-white guard. “We wanted to get this win. Everybody worked together as a team and you cannot win a game without that.”
Holloway, who had perhaps her best defensive game of the season, pulled down eight rebounds and filled the enemy shooting lanes all evening.
“I thought we played really well as a team tonight, as a unit, as one, and we are playing for each other — not for ourselves,” said Holloway.
Catron directed the offense in the late stages, helping to maintain the advantage while notching nine points including back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter. Alley Lee sparkled in the second half, hitting a dazzling 8-for-9 at the stripe and finishing with 10 points. Essence Brown continued her season-long improvement and added nine.
“We knew this was going to be our last home game of the season,” beamed the senior. “We came out, picked it up, and we are working hard to achieve our goal of going to state.”
Tazewell was 16-for-19 from the free throw line, while the Knights were 7-of-14 from the charity stripe.
at Tazewell Middle School
CAVE SPRING (7-17)
Hailey Sitze 12, Taylor White 6, Cassi Parulis 7, Taylor Asimakophous 6, Cait Flippen 6, Clair Harkey 3.
Taylor Catron 9, Whitney Saunders 18, Autumn Hash 12, Haley Christian 2, Kaley Holloway 3, Alley Lee 10, Essence Brown 9.
Cave Spring.........................6 9 17 8 — 40
Tazewell.............................13 16 20 14 — 63
3-point goals: CS 1 (Sitze 1); TZ 5 (Catron 3, Saunders 2). Fouled out: none.