By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
One coach was upset at the final whistle. The other coach understood, but wasn’t going to complain.
Guess which coach finished on top?
Max Rodgers made a free throw with 1 second left in the game, and Grayson County took over sole possession of first place in the Mountain Empire District with a thrilling 57-56 decision against Graham on Wednesday night at Graham High School.
Grayson County (14-5, 7-0), which had lost to Graham 75-72 in a tournament last month, won when it counted most, despite missing starters Mikey Rodgers and Adam Wyatt, who were out with injuries and illness.
“We will take a win tonight because we are down a couple of guys,” Grayson County head coach Lucas Austin said. “I thought we played hard tonight.”
Graham (14-5, 6-1) had fought back from a 5-point deficit to tie the score at 56-56 on two free throws by freshman Roman Workman with 23.9 left in the game.
Grayson County had the last possession, with the ball winding up with Max Rodgers, who grabbed a loose ball along the left baseline, turned and just heaved the ball toward the rim. The whistle blew, and Zach Proffitt was called for a foul with :01 on the clock.
“I am going to be classy about it here, let’s just give credit to Grayson County,” said Graham head coach Glynn Carlock, Jr., who wasn’t pleased with the call. “Grayson County did a great job tonight.
“They played hard and they did what they were supposed to do and they came in here and got a nice win on the road.”
Rodgers was able to make the first free throw and missed the second on purpose. Tony Hood grabbed the rebound, but his desperation shot at the buzzer missed its mark.
“It came down to the last play and I hate they kind of took it out of the kids’ hands there,” Austin said. “I understand if I was on the opposite side of that I would be upset too, but we will take it.”
Rodgers led four Blue Devils in double figures with 15 points. Ty Cannaday added 14, Lucas Rhudy tossed in 13 and Jack Circle had 11, all of which came in the final period.
“I thought we spread it around pretty good,” Austin said. “We talked about you have got to spread it around, not one person trying to make up for those two guys and I thought we did a good job of that.
“I am proud of my guys, but hats off to Graham though, they did a good job too.”
Graham was paced by Spencer Sheets with 16 points, 14 from Colby Hill and 10 by Tony Hood, who missed most of the third quarter with foul trouble. Proffitt and Workman added eight points each.
“Coach Austin prepared their kids well for this and our kids fought all the way to the end, our kids had a chance to win the ball game,” Carlock said. “Credit Coach Austin and their staff, they did a nice job, but I will tell you this, our kids didn’t quit and they played their butts off.”
An entertaining game from the start, there were 11 lead changes and seven ties in the opening three quarters before the Blue Devils built the game’s biggest lead at 44-37 with 6:50 left on a layup by Circle.
It was Circle who scored 11 of Grayson County’s 20 fourth quarter points by hanging out under the basket and waiting for feeds from his teammates.
“I think it might have been them slacking off on him and helping out with those guys,” Austin said. “When Ty and Max get the ball, that draws a lot of doubles and Circle is back there and he is in the right place at the right time. He made some big buckets, but big passes helped him make those too.”
Graham had no answer for Circle, who made nine of the Blue Devils’ final 10 points in the game.
“He did a nice job after 12 (Rodgers) was gaining most of the attention in the paint,” Carlock said. “He would step down and get the open look after we were helping off, he took advantage of what we gave him,” Carlock said.
“They had a nice plan. I felt like our guys stepped up in the second half and played extremely hard, but it is just unfortunate that it came down to a last call like that. That is the way it goes in this game sometimes.”
Graham, which last led 34-32 on a 3 by Workman with 3:34 left in the third period, never allowed the lead to grow higher than seven, but still trailed 56-51 with 53:5 seconds on the clock.
The G-Men tied the score on a basket by Proffitt, a free throw from Hill and two free throws by Workman, setting up the game’s final frenetic play, which resulted in the game-winning free throw with a second left in the game.
“You don’t make a foul call with one second left in the game,” Carlock said. “That is all I have got to say.”
Graham, which will host Bland County on Friday, will play the Blue Devils again the final regular season game, and could see them twice more in the postseason. That would be fine with Carlock.
“He is aware of it and I am aware of it,” Carlock said. “We are going to see each other a lot more before this thing is all said and done. We have a nice, clean rivalry between one another, the kids respect each other and it is a good game every time we play...
“They are fun to play and I think our kids enjoy playing against their kids and I think then enjoy playing against us. It is a good clean rivalry and everybody plays hard.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Graham Middle School
GRAYSON COUNTY (14-5, 7-0)
London Frost 1 0-0 2, Ty Cannaday 6 1-2 14, Lucas Rhudy 6 1-3 13, Max Rodgers 5 4-6 15, Dylan Morris 0 0-0 0, Lucas Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Jack Circle 5 1-1 11. Totals 24 7-12 57
GRAHAM (14-5, 6-1)
Tony Hood 4 2-4 10, Spencer Sheets 7 0-0 16, Marshall Hawley 0 0-1 0, Colby Hill 5 4-9 14, Zach Proffitt 4 0-0 8, Roman Workman 2 2-2 8, Jonathan Figueroa 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 8-16 56.
Grayson County.................12 15 13 17 — 57
Graham...............................13 13 10 20 — 56
3-point goals: GC 2 (Cannady 1, Rodgers 1); GR 4 (Sheets 2, Workman 2). Total fouls: GC 13; GR 15. Fouled out: Hawley. Technicals: none. JV—Graham 38 (Israel Harris 10, Bryce Farris 8); Grayson County 29 (Jacob Vaughan 9).