Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

February 25, 2014

Final four in Virginia hoops awaits at end of the week

BLUEFIELD, Va. — There are currently 16 teams still alive in each division of the Virginia High School League basketball playoffs.

By the end of the week it will be down to the final four.

One of those is the Graham G-Men, who need a win over Virginia High in the Group 2A-West regionals on Wednes-day to advance to the state quarterfinals for a second year in a row.

“We are one of 16 teams left,” Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr. said. “Every time you lose you cut the field in half so we are fortunate enough to be there.

“We know that Vir-ginia High is an athletic team, but we will be up for the challenge in our gym on Wednesday at 7 o’clock.”

Graham (18-6), winners of eight games in a row, will host Virginia High (18-6), which finished second to Gate City in the Clinch Mountain Conference (40). Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at Graham Middle School.

The G-Men and Virginia High met in a preseason scrimmage prior to the season with such a meeting as this on their minds. The Bearcats, who are coached by Graham graduate Barry Reed, is led by former Tazewell standout Noah Walker, who should play, but did suffer an ankle injury in the loss to Gate City.

Graham will be challenged Walker, Ben Couch, Toure Fudge and senior point guard Derrck Lee, with the smaller G-Men bringing a lineup that likes to run the floor, paced by Southern Empire Conference player of the year Colby Hill, Tony Hood and Roman Workman.

“We scrimmaged them first scrimmage of the year,” Carlock said ."That is probably pretty much why Barry and I decided to scrimmage because we felt like we could match up at this point at some stage later in the season.”

The winner will meet either River Run Conference (38) runner-up Floyd County (17-6) — and all-time VHSL career scorer Caleb Tanner — or Courthouse Conference (37) champion Dan River in the semifinals on Friday at Floyd County.

Meanwhile, Richlands (9-14), which lost to Graham 73-62 in the Southern Empire Conference (39) finals on Saturday, will travel to Clinch Mountain runner-up Gate City (18-5), the same club that kept Graham from a trip to the final four last season in Richmond. Tip-off at Gate City is also slated for 7.

The winner will meet either River Run champion Martinsville or Courthouse runner-up Gretna on Friday at Floyd.

Richlands, which has never won a regional boys game in the school’s history, will face a tall task at Gate City, which has become a perennial threat at the state level under Scottie Vermillion.

“Gate City is a tremendous team, number one seed out of Conference 40, which is loaded,” said Richlands head coach Jody Fuller, whose freshman son Cody had six 3s and 18 points in the loss to Graham. “We are going to their house on Wednesday, but we will go down there and we will lay it on the line.

“That is one thing about these kids, they believe in themselves and we are not going to lay down. “

Gate City, which has won 15 district titles in the last 16 years, is led by guard Dylan Jenkins and Michael Collier on the inside. The Blue Devils will provide a worthy challenge to the Blue Tornado, which starts seniors Ben Brown and Zach Johnson, and a trio of freshmen led by Luke Phillips.

“Coach Vermillion has got a great program down there, I mean, good night, he makes run after run year after year,” Fuller said. “He has got a program, he doesn’t have a good team, he has a good program so we will go down there and give it everything we have got.”

While the boys from Graham and Richlands wait until Wednesday to play, the same can’t be said for the other local teams in regional play, all of whom tip off tonight.

That includes the Lady Blues of Richlands (17-5), which won the inaugural Southern Empire Conference title with an impressive 20-point win over Grayson County.

Up next for Richlands is a visit from perennial state contender Wise County Central, formerly known as J.J. Kelly, which lost to Floyd County in the Division 2 championship game last season, and were the runner-up last week to Gate City in the Clinch Mountain Conference.

This contest will feature two of Southwest Virginia’s best talents, including Southern Empire Conference co-player of the year Brittany Allen of Richlands and Wise Central’s Logan Reynolds, who was held to an uncharacteristic seven points in a 41-22 loss to Gate City in the CMC tournament title game last Friday.

The winner will meet either Martinsville (4-17) or Buckingham County in Thursday’s semifinals at Floyd County. The other semifinal will feature the Grayson County-Gate City winner or either the defending Division 2 state champion Buffaloes (22-1) or Gretna.

Saturday’s championship game at Floyd is slated for 6 p.m.

“They got one good player, her and Brittany both, they are about the same, they have got a real good player,” Richlands head coach Dennis Palmer said. “They have got some good players on the team, they can shoot the ball, they can move the ball, they are a good rebounding team.

“We are going to have to play well, but if we play like we do in surges at times, we can beat anybody. If we play like that we are going to be a tough team to knock out.”

Richlands, which is looking for its fourth straight trip to the state tournament, will also depend on production from Sarah Compton, Montana Hearl and freshman Olivia Harmon. Megan Edwards had 10 points for Wise Central against Gate City.

“Logan is a good ball player, we are going to have to contain her and hopefully we will come out with the win,” Allen said. “Me and Logan play AAU together so she knows how I play and I know how she plays so it will be fun.”

In other action tonight, Narrows (11-11), which lost a hard-fought Western Gate Conference (45) finale to defending state champion Radford, will visit Galax (17-4) in a Group 1A-West regional boys first round game.

Those clubs have met twice this season with the Maroon Tide winning 45-36 and 44-39.

Led by Chandler Burton and Rodney Perdue, the Green Wave must win to advance forward to face Eastside or Haysi in the semifinals on Friday at Virginia High School.

In other boys games tonight, Honaker will host J.I. Burton, with the winner facing either Radford or George Wythe. The championship game is slated for Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Honaker girls also advanced to regional play, and will host Castlewood tonight. The winner faces Radford or Galax in the semifinals, also at Virginia High. The other half of the bracket includes Northwood, Clintwood, Covington and powerful Chilhowie, which is led by 2,000 point scorer Danielle Catron, who will play next season at Concord.

The top two teams in each division advance to the final four next weekend, with the semifinals being play at neutral sites. Only the state championship games that include six divisions each for boys and girls will be held the following week in Richmond.

— Contact Brian Woodson

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