By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Taylor Catron was sent to the bench in the first quarter, and then given a pep talk by Tazewell head coach Jason Southworth.
“When she doesn’t play to expectations,” Southworth said, “I told her you are going to sit until you start playing that way, but she came off and responded and played real well.”
Catron canned three 3s in the third quarter, and Whitney Saunders scored eight of her 19 points in the same period, and the Bulldogs survived a pair of late shots to defeat Abingdon 61-59 in a Southwest District tournament consolation game on Saturday night at Richlands Middle School.
Tazewell (14-11) will host Cave Spring in a Region IV tournament game on Tuesday. Abingdon will host Martinsville in a Division 3 quarterfinal game on the same night.
“We have to keep practicing hard, keep focusing, keep our minds right and keep our mind on the goal,” said Catron, who finished with 18 points, including 12 after the break.
Tazewell used a 19-4 run to open the third quarter to build the lead to 17, at 43-26 with 2:40 on the clock. The Falcons then used spurts of 10-0 and 11-0 to claw within two with 20 seconds left in the game.
“If we would have played the first half like we did the second half maybe it would have been a different story,” Abingdon head coach Jimmy Brown said. “Tazewell is a good team and you give them that big of a lead, it is hard to come back from.”
They nearly did it.
Abingdon (8-16) took a 15-11 lead after the opening quarter, with the Bulldogs struggling with four turnovers and Catron, who is Tazewell’s leading scorer, was sent to the bench by Southworth.
“He told me when I back in, he said, “You had better pick it up,” Catron said “I guess I just kind of got my mind going and not just me, the entire team picked it up.”
Tazewell took its first lead on a drive to the hoop by Autumn Hash, who had six of her 11 points at the break to help the Bulldogs take a 24-22.
Hash led the Bulldogs with 10 rebounds.
“Autumn is doing a lot better job just sticking her hands up and not doing some things she shouldn’t be doing, but she had a phenomenal game underneath the basket,” Southworth said.
The Bulldogs came out of the break focused on the task at hand, with Catron making a trio of 3s and Saunders repeatedly driving to the basket and banking in shots, enabling the Bulldogs to build a 17-point lead that was whittled down to eight heading into the final period.
“Whitney played well, she attacked the basket when she needed to and handled the basketball when she needed to so she did a good job.” Southworth said.
Both Saunders and Hash were saddled with early foul trouble. Hash and Abingdon’s Madison Turner both fouled out in a game that featured 42 fouls and 41 free throws.
“We came out strong, especially when Whitney came back in the game, she had two fouls and Autumn came back in, and with all our forces back together we were just looking for each other and just making shots,” Catron said. “Autumn played really good and Whitney was knocking down shots that we really needed in the game, driving in and scoring for us.”
Abingdon began its comeback with a 3 by Olivia Ball, as the Falcons pulling to within eight going into the final quarter. The Falcons completed a 10-0 run by cutting the lead to 43-36, but the Bulldogs responded with a basket by Essence Brown and three-point play from Hash. Brown added 10 points for Tazewell.
“Abingdon gets after it, they play very hard, they don’t quit, it doesn’t matter if they are down 17 or 20, they get after it,” Southworth said.
“They made a good little run, we stopped the run and we were able to win.”
That was followed by an 11-0 run by the Falcons against the turnover-prone Bulldogs, cutting the lead to 52-49, but Brown made a basket off an assist by Saunders and Tazewell made 6-of-12 free throws down the stretch.
The Bulldogs were 10-for-16 from the charity stripe, while the Falcons were 14-25.
“You try to get them to calm down and relax and just execute,” Southworth said, “but we did what we had to to end with a win.”
Abingdon erased most of a seven-point lead with 31.2 seconds on a 3 by Emily Greear and two from Leanna Toler.
“We were getting really jittery and Coach called a timeout, that is the first thing he said is just calm down,” Catron said. “We calmed down and they were fouling us which was helping us with the foul shots.
“We just got lucky at the end on that shot with them not making the shot.”
Two missed free throws by Saunders with 9.5 seconds left sent the Falcons hurrying down the floor, with Taylor Blevins missing an open look from the top of the key, rebounding the miss and trying again, but the ball missed its mark as the buzzer sounded.
Brown found it hard to complain. His best scorer had the ball at the end.
“If we need one bucket we will take a jumper from Taylor Blevins any day,” said Brown, whose Falcons were led by Blevins with 18 points and 10 apiece from Toler and Aubrey Billips.
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org
At Richlands Middle School
TAZEWELL ( 14-11)
Brienna Sparks 1 0-0 3, Taylor Catron 6 3-4 18, Whitney Saunders 6 6-12 19, Haley Christian 0 0-0 0, Autumn Hash 5 1-3 11, Kaley Holloway 0 0-0 0, Essence Brown 3 4-6 10, Alley Lee 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 14-25 61.
Madison Turner 1 1-2 3, Morgan Turner 2 1-2 5, Taylor Blevins 7 4-6 18, Leanna Toler 4 2-2 10, Aubrey Billips 5 0-2 10, Olivia Ball 1 0-0 3, Carter Newton 0 0-0 0, Sunny Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Emily Greear 3 0-0 8, Emily Blevins 0 2-2 2, Ashleigh Cantrell 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 10-16 59.
Tazewell……........................11 13 19 18 — 61
Abingdon……..................…15 7 13 24 — 57
3-point goals: TZ 5 (Catron 3, Sparks 1, Saunders 1); AB 3 (Greear 2, Ball 1). Total fouls: TZ 18; AB 24. Fouled out: Hash, Ma.Turner. Technicals: Tazewell bench (Jason Southworth).