Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

February 27, 2014

Achieving state supremacy in Virginia basketball will be a tall task for area teams

BLUEFIELD — The first season of conference play was less than satisfying for area basketball teams.

No local team, outside of Honaker, is still alive in the Virginia state playoffs.

Honaker’s girls squad did advance to the Region 1A-West finals, and a state semifinal berth with a win over Galax on Thursday. The Tigers’ male counterparts face a tall task tonight against defending state champion Radford in the 1A-West regional semifinals.

As for the other teams closest to the area that were still alive as of Tuesday, all were finished in a matter of about 24 hours.

First, the Richlands girls saw its three-year run of state tournament appearances come to an end with a Tuesday loss to Wise County Central.

That was followed by the Narrows boys falling by six points to Galax.

Up next was the Richlands boys, and the Blue Tornado lost at Gate City.

Finally, Graham dropped a home tilt to Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

Just like that, all four were done, ready next to pull out the baseballs, softballs, tennis balls, soccer balls or perhaps head to the track or field.

How far do the local clubs have to compete for state supremacy in basketball?

It will be an uphill climb. Just check out the competition that awaits.

Girls first, of course. Wise Central, formerly known as J.J. Kelly, has tradition, winning the state title at 30-0 in 2002, and falling short in the finals three other times since 1998.

The Warriors were joined in the 2A-West regional semifinals on Thursday by Floyd County, which has won four state titles, beating Wise Central last year for the crown. There is also Gate City, which has reached the finals three times, winning it all in 2006.


How about the boys.

First up is Galax, which won consecutive state crowns in 2011-12. Then there is Gate City, which has been the state finals three times since 2007, but are still looking for that first title.

Up next is Virginia High, which hasn’t won a state championship, but all they Bearcats have to do tonight is beat Dan River, which is undefeated and the favorite to claim the 2A state crown.

Also part of tonight’s 2A-West semifinals is Martinsville, which has won 13 state championships, with the last one coming in 2006.

Get the hint. It’s not going to be easy for local teams to make progress with those types of teams waiting for them in regional play.

Basketball in our small part of Virginia is fun to watch, but the competition that awaits as the season progresses will be difficult to deal with.

Just don’t count them out, especially Graham (18-7), which does return its entire roster next season, led by Colby Hill, Tony Hood, Roman Workman and Thomas Clarke.

“There is nobody that should leave the locker room with their heads held low tonight,” said Graham head coach Glynn Carlock Jr. after the 78-62 loss to Virginia High. “They should leave with their heads held high.

“There are not many circumstances where you have everybody back, but they have got to work and we will.”

Carlock will be looking for depth and continued improvement from his players, particularly rising junior Tanner Miller, who finished the season as the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-1.

“(Having those four back) is nice, and you know what they are going to bring to the table, and Tanner is very capable,” Carlock said. “When Tanner works this offseason he is going to come in next year in even better shape than he was toward the end of this year...

“We will find some more pieces to the puzzle. We still have to find more depth involved with our bench and we have got some kids coming up from the middle school ranks, you always have to count on that.”

Miller wound up in a starting role after Zach Proffitt decided to leave the team in January. Carlock also returns talented freshman Nick Morgan, and the G-Men could get help from its middle school program.

“Depth has got to happen, there is no question,” Carlock said. “We talked about that in the locker room before we broke it down for one last time, depth is something that has got to take place.

“I think we have hopefully advanced Tanner Miller. Tanner has advanced so much in a short period of time, in a year’s time a whole bunch, I have been proud of him. If he works hard this offseason he can help us out even more.”

Richlands is another team with potential, with six freshmen returning who saw plenty of the floor this season. Ben Brown, one of the area’s best athletes, will be gone, but the young Blue Tornado will get better and can be expected to challenge for that first regional boys win in school history in the near future.

It just won’t come easy.  

“I’m proud of them. We were one of the final 16 teams still playing,” said Richlands head coach Jody Fuller, after Wednesday’s 77-54 loss at Gate City. “Not many people gave us a chance to be doing that coming out of the conference. I’d really liked to have had a better showing tonight, but I am really proud of those kids.”

No team will feel the loss of a player more than Richlands with the departure of the school’s all-time leading scorer, Brittany Allen, who will next dribble basketballs at Radford.

Perhaps, Graham will be the next girls team to watch in our part of Virginia. The G-Girls started three freshmen and a sophomore this season. They will be a threat in the future, but it remains to be seen how they fare come regional time.

Several talented athletes have played their final games, leaving holes that must be filled, including Brown, Allen, John Shelor (Giles), Chandler Burton and Tiffany Perdue (Narrows), Colin Hancock and Autumn Hash (Tazewell), Morgan Hall (Grundy) and so many more.

That’s part of the deal. Players come and players go, it is all about trying to find the right mix to make a run.

Don’t count anyone out, but it won’t be easy with the competition that awaits.

Still, Virginia High head coach Barry Reed had a few pleasant words for the G-Men after the Bearcats left Bluefield with the regional win.

“Graham is young, they will be back next year,” Reed said. “We know that and they will be a year older. The future looks bright for them.”

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at

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