By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLAND, Va. —
High school basketball is back. They’re certainly happy about it at Bland County ... and Floyd County too.
“Absolutely,” said Bland County head coach Rick Hankins, on the return to basketball season. “These kids have a lot of look forward to over the next couple of months. If we will just continue to work hard and stay together, we are going to be fine.”
No one was as ready as Caleb Tanner for Floyd County, who led the Buffaloes to an 82-71 opening night win over the Bears with 39 points on Tuesday night at Bland High School.
Tanner connected on 11 field goals, including a trio of long 3s, and was also 14-of-16 from the free throw line, including 7-8 in the final 3:44 of the game played in front of a standing room only audience in a toasty gymnasium.
He didn’t score in the first quarter, but tallied 15 in the second period, 11 in the third and 13 more in the fourth.
“He is a great kid, a great shooter and a great competitor,” Floyd County head coach Brian Harman said. “I thought you saw a great high school basketball game tonight.
“They definitely outplayed us, nobody deserved to lose, but I can handle that night in and night out and walk away on either side. Of course this is obviously tougher for them, but when they come to Floyd it ain’t going to an easy game by no means.”
Bland County (0-1), which received 26 points from Chase Hankins and 20 by Asher Dillow, led 68-58 with 6:03 left in the fourth quarter, but the Bears were outscored 24-3 from that point.
They led 11-0 in the first quarter and were up by as much as 15 at 22-7 with 5:35 to play in the first half. The Bears settled for a 33-24 lead at the break, with Hankins and Dillow scoring 10 points each.
“Their defensive intensity in the first eight minutes was really good, especially on our guards out front which created a lot of trouble for us,” Hankins said. “I am just extremely proud of our kids, they battled all night long.
“We got hurt on the defensive boards tremendously. Of course when our three big kids have fouled out that made all the difference.”
Dillow, who, like Tanner, was held scoreless in the first quarter, had 10 in the second period. Hankins had 11 in the third quarter, and joined Dillow three 3s apiece. Darryl Clark added 15 points for the Bears, which made eight shots from 3-point range.
“We got a monster game out of Chase,” Hankins said. “He really decided to take it upon his own shoulders and keep us in it, and our other two guards out front were tremendous as well.”
Bland County was able to use an 11-2 run to build a 50-35 lead in the third period, and still led 61-53 going into the final period. Dillow made a pair of field goals, including a 3, and Hankins drove to the hoop to put the Bears up by 10, 68-58, with 6:03 left on the clock.
“They shot the ball so well the whole game,” Harman said. “Those three guys are tough competitors and we finally got a little stretch there where they missed a couple...
“We were trying to get some easy fast break points and we got to the free throw line a little bit. Those three are tough kids and they are going to have a very good year this year.”
That is when the Buffaloes (1-0) took over, led by Tanner and a physical Brandon Lemons, who took over on the inside, finishing with 20 of his 22 points in the second half, including eight down the stretch in the final period.
“Ten (Tanner) is just a tremendous scorer, he just really knows how to score the basketball. He is developing some Division I interest and 34 (Lemons) on the inside, he played like a man,” said Hankins, whose Bears will visit Rural Retreat on Thursday.
Floyd County tied the score for the first time with 2:52 to go on a steal by Preston Neukirch, who drove to the basket to tie the score at 70-70. Lemons then followed with an offensive putback to put the Buffaloes up to stay.
The Buffaloes outscored Bland County 58-38 in the second half, with the Bears losing four players to fouls in the final period.
“We wore down a little bit, we got a little tired,” Hankins said. “It comes from trying to pressure them so much as well, but I am extremely proud of my kids. They fought all night long.”
The hard-fought contest featured 48 fouls, 56 free throws and four technicals, leaving Harman — who picked up one of those technicals — relieved to escape with the win.
“Starting out this is a tough place to play. I love playing up here and Rocky Gap and that is what I was excited about,” Harman said. “Coach Hankins does a great job with these guys and I knew they would be ready because this a big game for them, it was a big game for us.
“I love competing against kids like that that are great kids and you can tell they are great kids.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Bland High School
FLOYD COUNTY (1-0)
Dustin Faulkner 2 0-0 4, Caleb Tanner 11 14-16 39, Cole Worrell 1 0-0 2, Dorian Harris 1 1-1 3, Brandon Lemons 7 8-10 22, Justin Conduff 0 0-0 0, Preston Neukirch 2 2-2 7, Cliff Conley 2 1-2 5, Will Clark 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 26-33 82.
BLAND COUNTY (0-1)
Asher Dillow 6 5-6 20, Jonathan Goins 1 0-0 2, Darryl Clark 6 2-3 15, John Miller 2 1-5 5, Chase Hankins 8 7-9 26, Jonah Miller 0 0-0 0, Tyler White 1 0-0 3, Jonathan Faulkner 0 0-0 0, Kalub Lambert 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 15-23 71. Floyd County..........5 19 29 29 — 82
Bland County.........13 20 28 10 — 71
3-point goals: FC 4 (Tanner 3, Neukirch 1); BC 8 (Dillow 3, Hankins 3, Clark 1, White 1). Total fouls: FC 21; BC 27. Fouled out: Clark, Goins, Jon.Miller, Joh.Miller. Technicals: Tanner, White, Floyd County bench (Brian Harman). JV—BC wins 46-41.