By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
If luck is where preparation meets opportunity, then good fortune smiled all over the ready-to-play Lebanon Pioneers.
“We prepared really hard for the last three days for this game,” said LHS coach Thad Lambert after his team stunned homestanding Tazewell 62-51 Friday. Owen Slate popped in 27 points as Lebanon (3-1) avenged last week’s overtime loss to the Bulldogs (2-2).
A tenacious 2-3 zone for much of the game enabled the visitors to frustrate Tazewell’s outside shooting, and then in the second half Lebanon began to run and crash the boards, as well.
Early in the third period, however, it appeared that the Dogs might be the ones celebrating at the conclusion.
Tanner Catron fired in back-to-back treys and THS grabbed a 32-28 lead but Will Stamper put in a trey, igniting a 12-5 Pioneer run to close out the third stanza with Lebanon up, 42-37.
Austin Bollinger, who fired in 16 points, was a key cog late in the stretch drive with six crucial points in the final four minutes to maintain the Pioneer momentum.
“I’ll tell you the truth — last week (Noah) Walker and (Jalen) Jordan combined for 50 points and we lost to Tazewell,” said Lambert.
“Tonight, we tried to get them under control. I told our guys ‘We are not going to lose because of them, if possible, we are going to make their (Tazewell) 3-4-5 guys beat us’ and we really worked on rebounding in the second half. I think we put a pretty good lick on them there.
“Tazewell has a great team, a high-scoring team, but the work we put in this week showed tonight. I am really proud of my players right now.”
Lebanon served early notice they were not going away. Jalen Jordan got the Dogs ahead with a quick bucket in the lane to open the game but Bollinger answered with a pair of three-balls from the left side to push Lebanon in front. Wesley Carter and Slate led the LHS defense as Tazewell had trouble getting the ball inside in the first quarter.
Christian Lewis hit three baseline shots and Tazewell finally broke in front with less than two minutes left but again Lebanon answered. Gus Chaffin drained two buckets and a free throw sandwiched around Slate’s two pointer to shove the Pioneers ahead 15-10 at the 6:30 mark of the slow-moving opening half.
“We meant to take the ball to the rim,” said Slate. “We wanted to go right after (Noah) Walker and try to get him out of the game. We were able to get the job done. All week we practiced that plan. We crashed the boards late and that was big for us.”
Catron and Colin Hancock nailed two foul shots apiece and lifted THS to a 22-19 advantage. A Bulldog highlight came when Noah Walker, who had five rejections in the first half had successive blocked shots over the same shooter at the other end. Walker, leading the surge near the end of the half, added another basket.
Lebanon, however, returned the favor behind Owens and then Will Stamper’s trey tied the tally at 26-26 by halftime.
Tazewell suffered a crushing blow when Walker fouled out with six minutes left in the game. Walker left with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and seven blocked shots, all team highs for the Bulldogs.
Catron, who added 11 points, noted, “We didn’t play as well as we should have. Lebanon outhustled us, I guess. They were more physical tonight. We are better than we showed We have to come back out and play our kind of basketball.”
Hancock added 10 points for the Bulldogs.
Tazewell coach Lee Walker said, “With some of the situations that happened out there, we just could not establish a rhythm. Every time we got a good play or two, something happened that stopped play and we didn’t execute like we should have in key situations. We have to correct that.”
Lebanon finished 14-for-22 at the line while the Bulldogs were 12-of-23.
Lebanon hosts Castlewood Wednesday. Tazewell entertains Oak Hill Academy Red Team today beginning with the junior varsity at 1 p.m. and the varsity at approximately 2:30.
At Tazewell Middle School
Wesley Carter 7, Will Stamper 4, Trevor Owens 5, Austin Bollinger 16, Owen Slate 27, Gus Chaffin 3.
Jesse Mountain 2, Tanner Catron 11, Christian Lewis 6, Colin Hancock 10, Noah Walker 13, Jalen Jordan 5, Juwan Jordan 4.
Lebanon............11 15 16 20 — 62
Tazewell...........10 16 11 14 — 51
3-point goals — LHS 6 (Bollinger 2, Slate 2, Stamper 1, Carter 1) TAZ 5 (Catron 3, Hancock 2). Fouled out — TAZ, Walker.