By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
While a blizzard barrels into the northeast, a blue tornado blasted through Richlands Friday night.
Richlands outscored Tazewell 25-5 in the second period, a quarter that Blue Tornado coach Dennis Palmer labeled “probably our best eight minutes of the season” and the Lady Blues were not seriously challenged after the break en route to a 66-49 Southwest District triumph over the Lady Bulldogs.
The win was the second in the regular season for sizzling Richlands (17-3, 6-2) which will play Carroll County at Marion on Monday night at 7 p.m. in a showdown for the SWD title.
Tazewell (12-10, 4-4) will entertain Marion Tuesday in the play-in game of the district tournament.
Brittney Allen directed the blistering first-half attack with key rebounds, a trey and a basket while Cassidy Richardson popped in 10 points and Sarah Compton controlled the offensive boards and hit 4-of-5 free throws in the flurry.
Richlands patiently played outside Tazewell’s 2-3 zone and then opened up the fast break en route to a 13-0 run beginning the second stanza. Compton’s free throw with less than a minute remaining before halftime as the Lady Blues equaled their largest lead of the game — 24 points — at 42-18.
Allen hit two of the nine three-point shots drilled home by the Lady Blues, with Makenley Davis and Richardson also shooting three from downtown.
“We knew Tazewell would come in here looking for some revenge,” said Allen, who led all scorers with 18 points including a 6-of-7 effort at the line. “We can play either offense if we have to, one is a little more laid back but we do like to run. Things worked out pretty good for us tonight. Sarah (Compton) played a heck of a game for us. I’m very proud of her.”
Richardson was a major factor, running the fast break all evening, and she said, “We were ready for this game. We’ve worked on our defense a lot and that makes our offense go. We have to play smart at both ends of the floor. We were pumped — we don’t just have one player, we play best as a team.”
Cold shooting again plagued the Lady Bulldogs, who consistently got one attempt at the bucket while Richlands stayed at full throttle.
Autumn Hash and Bri Sparks, who nailed a pair of treys, helped to give Tazewell an early lead. Hash powered inside twice, including a hook shot in the lane as the Dogs moved in front 9-7. Hash’s two free throws with 4:02 to go in the first period gave Tazewell an 11-10 lead.
“We wanted to prove we could play hard and win even though we’ve been a little off balance lately,” said Hash, who paced the Lady Dogs with 17 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of blocked shots.
Montana Hearl answered Hash’s early heroics with a three-ball from the corner that pushed the Blue Tornado ahead 14-11. The Lady Blues never trailed again. Midway through the third quarter, Richlands began to patiently move the ball around the perimeter as the clock ticked off seconds. With Allen and Richardson working the outside, Compton continued to patrol the paint for the Blues.
“I’m just glad I could help out my team,” grinned Compton. “Coach (Palmer) just wanted us to do the fundamentals and keep our heads in the game. We were not trying to be fancy — just do what we should do and let the points take care of themselves.”
Whitney Saunders had a solid third quarter at both ends of the floor for Tazewell, including a 30-foot trey as the Lady Dogs slowly chipped away at the Tornado lead. Patience continued to be the name of the game, however, for the Lady Blues, who maintained their composure through the final quarter.
Saunders said, “It was definitely a tough night. We got some open shots but they just would not fall. Richlands took advantage of the opportunities.”
Lady Dog coach Jason Southworth noted, “Richlands has five girls who can shoot the ball. They figured our defense out and when they got going we could not catch up tonight.”
Saunders netted nine for Tazewell and Taylor Catron added seven for the Bulldogs. Richardson scored 15 points and Davis added 12 with Compton next in line with nine for the balanced Lady Blue attack.
Palmer said, “We had a good game. Sarah did a fine job for us. It all goes back to playing good defense, which we have for the last 5-6 games. If you box out and play good defense you have a chance to win. It should be something when we play Carroll.
“They beat us by two down here and we beat them by three up there. Both games went down to the wire and I don’t expect Monday’s game to be any different. We have to play tough defense. I am sure Carroll will be ready to play and we have to be up to the challenge.”
Richlands met the free throw opportunity well Friday, hitting 17-of-25 at the line while Tazewell made 12-for-22 at the stripe.
At Richlands Middle School
TAZEWELL (12-10, 4-4)
Taylor Catron 7, Whitney Saunders 9, Kate Snapp 5, Kaley Holloway 5, Bri Sparks 6, Autumn Hash 17.
RICHLANDS (17-3, 6-2)
Montana Hearl 5, Makenley Davis 12, Cassidy Richardson 15, Brittany Allen 18, Paxton Casey 2, Sarah Compton 9, Rachel Alley 3, Hannah Alley 1, Nadia Ashiq 1.
Tazewell.................................13 5 12 19 — 49
Richlands...............................17 25 8 16 — 66
Three-point goals – RL 9 (Davis 3 , Richardson 3, Allen 2, Hearl 1). TZ 5 (Saunders 2, Sparks 2, Catron 1). Fouled out –none. JV—RL 62-39.