By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ROCKY GAP, Va. —
The finale of the Tazewell-Bland County quadruple header was worth the wait.
Tipping off just after 9 p.m., the Bulldogs and Bears put on a show for the packed audience at Rocky Gap High School on Friday night.
It was a back-and-forth contest early, but as the game wore on, Bland County was able to pull away for a 78-62 victory.
“Tremendous effort on the part of both teams,” Bland County head coach Rich Hankins said. “Our kids played with a lot of passion and a lot emotion. In the first half, they key for us was we got some play from some kids who hadn't been playing a lot lately.
“They bided their time, came in and gave us a big lift. Tyler White hit a couple three's and gave us momentum early. Andy Pauley on the inside really battle and came up with some big rebounds.”
The long shot was deadly for Bland County in the opening quarter. Asher Dillow and Tyler White both connected from deep twice. Darryl Clark added a fifth as the Bears built a 21-14.
“It's an atmosphere to play basketball in,” Tazewell head coach Lee Walker said. “We kind of got caught up in the crowd. Hopefully next time we'll be better prepared for that.”
Tazewell kept battling and got within striking distance several times thanks Noah Walker and Jalen Jordan. A Walker tip-in made it 28-23 midway through the second then Jones steal and lay-up cut the deficit to four at 34-30.
Clark connected with a three then added a fastbreak lay-up to close the half. Right before the buzzer, Walker tipped back his own shot to make it 39-32.
“That's what you want night in and night out,” Walker said of the Bulldogs battling back. “If we keep doing that, we'll win some ballgames. Tonight, it's one of those things. A call here or there and the momentum shifts. We'll keep battling and come back next time.”
Neither team could find a rhythm to start the third. Dillow got things started nearly two minutes in with a drive and foul. The teams traded baskets before Bland took control.
Dillow hit back to back three's before Chase Hankins putback pushed the margin to 56-37. After a Jordan lay-up, Dillow hit his third three in as many tries to give Bland their biggest lead to that point at 20.
“He's tremendous shooter,” coach Hankins said. “When he gets in that rhythm, you just have to turn him loose and let him go. He's capable of dropping four, five or six three's in a quarter. He really put us on his back and carried us.”
Tazewell would not go away though. Colin Hancock took it coast-to-coast then Walker slammed it home on a fastbreak to re-energize Tazewell.
The Bulldogs couldn't keep the momentum going as Bland County was able to start the fourth quarter off strong.
The Bears pushed their lead back to 18 following a Jonathan Goins put back and backdoor cut.
Jordan wouldn't let Tazewell go away without a fight. The scrappy guard kept attacking the rim. Yet for every score Jordan could find, Clark had an answer.
“He came up big,” coach Hankins said of Clark. “He hadn't been playing that well. He came down the lane several times, floated that thing up and it found nothing but the bottom of the net. It was good to see those kids come out and play well.”
Jordan kept pushing the Bulldogs with six points down the stretch, but Tazewell would get no closer than 13.
“Jalen's a good kid,” coach Walker said. “He works hard. He's a competitor. We'll go back to work and try again next week.”
Dillow and Clark each finished with 27 points. Dillow had seven rebounds and five assists. Clark connected on 9-of-13 attempts from the floor to go along with four steals.
Chase Hankins chipped in with seven points, nine boards and four steals.
Jordan's 28 points were a game-high and paced Tazewell. He also grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals. Walker finished with a double-double scoring 20 and pulling down 16 boards. He had four blocks.
The Bulldogs travel to Martinsville on Wednesday. The Bears host Northwood on Monday.
Hankins is hoping for another big crowd to get behind Bland County.
“It was tremendous,” he said of the game's atmosphere.. “It really was. We owe a lot to this community. Hopefully, they'll continue to come out and support us and really get behind us.”
At Rocky Gap High School
Christian Lewis 3, Tanner Catron 3, Colin Hancock 5, Juwan Jordan 2, Jalen Jordan 28, Jesse Mountain 1, Noah Walker 20. Totals- 25 6-12 62.
BLAND COUNTY (5-1)
Asher Dillow 27, Jonathan Goins 6, Jonah Walker 2, Tyler White 7, Darryl Clark 27, Andy Pauley 2, Chase Hankins 7. Totals- 18 15-24 78.
Tazewell.............................14 18 13 17 — 62
Bland County.....................21 18 20 19 — 78
3 pt field goals: T 2 (Catron, Hancock); BC 9 (Dillow 5, White 2, Clark 2).