By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. — Balance against the storm was decisive.
Five Dogs clawed their way into double digits as Tazewell raced to a 91-78 victory over a battling band of Marion Scarlet Hurricanes Friday.
Tazewell led by as many as 21 points in the opening minute of the second half before the Hurricane (6-8) stormed back and closed to within 8 with 3:40 left in the game. Riley Blevins fired in a game-high 31 points and hot-shooting Hunter Lefler popped in 22 more to pace the furious rally.
In the end, Tazewell was able to regain control of the tempo and secure the triumph.
"We executed our offense much better tonight," observed THS coach William Lester. "With that kind of scoring balance and a good effort (16-of-20) at the free throw line, most teams are going to win a lot of games. We were able to do that.
"But wasn't Blevins something tonight? We could not stop him. And Lefler was on fire from the outside. You had better have a good game when the opposing players are having nights like that. Give Marion a lot of credit."
Tanner Catron and Juwan Jordan sparkled early as the Bulldogs jumped to a 9-4 lead. In a preview of things to come, Blevins and Lefler began to attack the basket and the Hurricane battled back to a two-point deficit, 13-11, with 2:30 to go in the opening period.
Nick Elkins provided a second quarter spark for Tazewell, as Jordan and Catron continued to shine. Tazewell also had a solid 11-for-11 free throw mark in the first half.
"We stepped up our defense in the second quarter," said Elkins. "Passing the ball to the open man and looking for easy lay-ups — that's our bread and butter. We have to do that."
Davis opened the second half with a quick score as the Bulldogs increased their margin to more than 20 points. About that time, the Scarlet Hurricane came to life behind their big guns.
Blevins and Lefler were inside and outside, grabbing rebounds and running the floor when they weren't shooting and midway through the fourth period, it appeared that that Marion might not only come back, but maybe win the game, as well.
Down the stretch, it was Davis as much as anyone who quietly made a couple of big defensive plays with rebounds in traffic and then dropped in key shots at the other end to help Tazewell slowly rebuild the lead and seal the victory.
"I just wanted to help us win," said Davis. "Each one of us had a part to play and we had to do our jobs at different times on the court. I was glad to be able to do what I needed to late in the game."
Catron also played well, especially to help get the Dogs on the board quickly.
He said, "We really wanted to get an early lead. It's better to play when you are not playing from behind. Marion had a good game and our guys stepped up to get a big win here tonight."
Jordan led the Bulldogs with 24 points, followed by Catron with 16, Davis with 14, sharpshooting Colin Hancock with 13, and Isyah Hagy with 10.
Tazewell travels to Mouth of Wilson, Va., to play the Oak Hill Academy (Red) Warriors today at 3 p.m.
At Tazewell Middle School
Riley Blevins 31, Trey Cook 12, Hunter Lefler 22, Nick Stiefel 13.
Nick Elkins 8, Malik Davis 14, Tanner Catron 16, Colin Hancock 13, Juwan Jordan 24, Jesse Mountain 6, Isyah Hagy 10.
Marion..........................13 13 28 24 — 78
Tazewell.......................18 27 21 25 — 91
3-point goals — Mar 5 (Lefler 4, Blevins 1). Taz 7 (Catron 2, Hancock 2, Jordan 2, Hagy 1).
TAZEWELL, Va. — There may be no free lunch in the USA, but free throws proved to be the All American play Friday for Tazewell’s Lady Bulldogs.
Autumn Hash’s two crucial foul shots with 16 seconds remaining provided the edge as Tazewell escaped with a 43-40 victory over Marion.
The Lady Dogs broke in front early but sharp-shooting Margaret Wagner and Bethany Richardson ignited a second-half Hurricane rally.
Jordan Williams, who paced Marion with 11 points, drained a corner trey tied the score at 36-all with 2:45 to go and then MHS dialed up a press. Tazewell responded, as Hash hit two freebies, followed by Gracey Cline’s pair at the line.
Hash’s final two and the clincher from Ally Lee made the difference as Tazewell (9-7) outlasted the hurry-up Hurricane’s (6-8) second half surge.
“Shooting 76 percent (13-17) from the free throw line — that made the difference,” beamed Dog coach Jason Southworth. “We could have won two or three more games already if we had been doing that well at the line.”
Marion made one of only three foul shots, a shot by Bakker Cullop.
Hash and Whitney Saunders scored 12 points apiece for the winners, and Cline popped in 9 more.
“We knew that this was a very big game for conference points,” said Hash. “I think our free throw shooting improved because Coach Southworth made us run and shoot free throws all week long in practice — it seemed like that’s all we did. It paid off tonight,” she laughed.
Saunders added, “It (win) was crucial to keep working on tournament seeding. We all wanted to come out and play hard. I spent a lot of time today at the ‘Y’ shooting free throws (4-5) because we all know we have to do a better job at the line.”
Mimicking the frozen weather, Marion only lit the scoreboard for two buckets in the second quarter, including Atwood’s buzzer beater as Tazewell grabbed a quick 9-2 lead and held a 20-13 advantage at halftime.
“We started slow,” said Hurricane coach Sallie Moss, “and that really hurt us. We worked very hard to catch up and used a lot of energy to get back in the game. If we had shot better early, it might have been a different story.”
Wagner added 10 points for Marion.
Tazewell’s next game is at Lebanon on Jan. 31.
At Tazewell Middle School
Lakyn Atwood 2, Kate Pennington 4, Bakker Cullop 3, Jordan Williams 11, Bethany Richardson 6, Callee Cox 4.
Kaley Holloway 2, Gracey Cline 9, Autumn Hash 12, Haley Christian 5, Whitney Saunders 12, Ally Lee 3.
Marion..............................9 4 15 12 — 40
Tazewell..........................12 8 11 12 — 43
3-point goals – Mar 5 (Williams 3, Wagner 2). Taz 2 (Christian 1, Cline 1). Fouled out – none.