By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
The Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” was fitting for the Tazewell Lady Bulldogs on Tuesday night.
Countering Marion High School when it counted most, Tazewell forced 18 turnovers and shot 49 percent from the field to defeat the Scarlet Hurricane 64-48 at Tazewell Middle School in the new Conference 39 tournament.
Tazewell (11-10) senior point guard Whitney Saunders said, “Coach goes over every defense that he knows they’re going to run. He really prepares us, and we came into this game fully ready. We knew what we had to do.”
Fellow senior Haley Christian said, “It’s hard to beat a good team three times, so (Monday) at practice, Coach just drilled us with everything that he knew (about them) to get us prepared.”
Saunders led all scorers with 20 points and Christian was right behind with 19.
Jason Southworth, Tazewell’s head coach, said, “We’ve stepped it up, in the last two weeks in practice. It’s just been a different group. They’ve been getting after it. ... That’s what you like to see at the end of the year.”
“Marion’s not a bad team; they’re a scrappy bunch. I was nervous, because up at Marion, and here, those were two close ballgames.”
Marion (11-11) stayed with their hosts shot for shot in the first quarter, which appeared to end in a 17-17 tie.
However, a Tazewell player’s number had been entered incorrectly into the official scorebook prior to the game, and Marion’s Margaret Wagner nailed two technical foul shots to give the visitors a 19-17 lead.
It was their last. The Lady Bulldogs scored 19 points in the rest of the half. Marion went 0 for 9 from the floor to start the second quarter and trailed 36-24 at the break.
Southworth said, “We haven’t done a good job of contesting shots. That’s what I’ve been working hard on. ... People will get open shots, but if you can make it a little bit more difficult with a hand in the face, that’ll make all the difference in the world.”
Marion head coach Sallie Moss said, “I think we came ready to play, the first quarter, then fell apart the second quarter. ... Our second quarter’s usually the one that hurts us the most, and it certainly did tonight.”
A key sequence to Tazewell’s splurge came on back-to-back steals by freshman Gracey Cline and Saunders that they converted into transition layups and successful foul shots at the end of the plays.
Tazewell gradually built a lead as high as 23 points in the second half, and substitutes finished out the contest.
Christian said, “For the seniors, when we got to sit down and take a break and watch our bench go in, it just made us smile, because we’ve come this far, and we’re finally doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Tazewell made 21 of 43 field-goal tries while holding Marion to 18 of 60 for a 30 percent success rate. The Lady ’Dogs sank 19 of 26 free throws.
Saunders said, “Coach has really prepared all of us, whenever we get on the line, to get up there and just knock ’em down, to have no thoughts in your head, to just get up there and do it.”
Moss said, “I think they did a good job setting the pace of the game. You have a team like us that likes to run the ball, and they have a point guard who’s quick enough that they can handle it and slow the game down and execute a half-court offense like that. You don’t see that a whole lot.”
Cline had 10 points and two of Tazewell’s seven steals. Autumn Hash owned the paint, grabbing 13 Tazewell rebounds.
Marion’s do-everything player Margaret Wagner had 19 points, six rebounds and three of the Hurricane’s nine steals.
Moss said, “She’s just fantastic. She’s just one of those kids who gives it her all, even when things are stacked against her.”
Tazewell moves on to face county rival Richlands on Thursday in the Conference 39 semifinal. The top-seeded Lady Blues will be playing on their home floor at Richlands Middle School.
Southworth said about facing the Lady Blues, “You don’t have to do too much to get them (his team) ready to play, because if you can’t come ready to play against a rival, then there’s something wrong.”
“We’ve had two close ballgames with them, I mean it’s been neck-and-neck all the way to the end. We’ll be ready to play.”
Saunders said, “They’ve beaten us twice, and it’s super-hard to beat a good team three times. So when we go in Thursday, we’re going to get the win that we deserve.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Tazewell Middle School
Bakker Cullop 1 0-0 2, Jordan Williams 2 0-2 6, Margaret Wagner 7 4-6 19, Callee Cox 6 1-2 14, Kate Pennington 1 3-4 5, Branika Scott 0 0-2 0, Lakyn Atwood 1 0-1 2. Totals 18 8-17 48.
Kaley Holloway 2 1-2 5, Gracey Cline 2 6-9 10, Ally Lee 0 2-4 2, Whitney Saunders 6 7-9 20, Laken Sparks 1 0-0 2, Haley Christian 8 1-2 19, Autumn Hash 2 2-2 6. Totals 21 19-26 64.
Marion..........................19 5 11 13 — 48
Tazewell.......................17 19 17 11 — 64
3-point goals — M 4 (Williams 2, Wagner 1, Cox 1); T 3 (Saunders 1, Christian 2). Fouled out — none. Technical — Tazewell bench.