By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
A clever consistency is the key to moving on.
Tazewell, playing its best team ball in a couple of weeks, put four players in double digits and raced away from Marion with a 61-40 opening-round Southwest District tournament triumph Tuesday.
The Lady Dogs (13-10) will now take on regular season champion Richlands in semifinal action Thursday at 7 p.m. at Richlands. Marion (5-16) finished its season.
Taylor Catron was on fire early, sparking THS and finishing as the game’s top scorer with 16 points. Catron was one of four Lady Dogs in double digits, along with Whitney Saunders (14), Haley Christian (11) and Essence Brown (11).
Catron was a whirling dervish in the opening stanza, racing end to end and all around directing traffic, draining a 25-foot trey, grabbing five rebounds, and notching three steals in the opening 8 minutes to help the Dogs grab a 22-8 advantage.
Hash was equally splendid, a smooth blend of power and finesse, working inside and outside to toss in a trio of scores, block a shot, snag four rebounds and deny the basket on virtually every offensive series by Marion.
“We came out well. We knew yesterday it would be our last practice and we got pumped for the game — we want to make it regions and possibly state,” grinned Catron, a senior for THS, who along with Hash is one of the veteran leaders.
She and Catron combined for the first dozen points, as Tazewell raced out to an 8-0 lead and extended it to 14-2 on Whitney Saunders’ flying one-hander off the glass in the lane with 4:47 to go in the opening stanza.
“We just needed a good start,” smiled Hash, “and we got it, we played together and it was good night for the team.”
Jordan Willlams did a good job on the Scarlet Hurricane side, however, putting up five points in the first frame for Marion. Williams finished up with 9 for MHS.
It was Saunders after the break who continued to energize the Lady Dogs, helping to push the third-period lead to 22 points, 45-23, with 1:45 left.
The junior backcourt performer kept the pressure up all over, crashing the boards and creating scoring opportunities at the opposite end.
“In the first half, I felt a little slow and I wanted to step my game so we could all work together as a team and get this very important victory,” noted Saunders.
In between the heroics, some suspect passing combined with a propensity to misfire on lay-ups cost the Dogs some chances to pile up an even larger margin. Marion was generally unable to convert on its offensive chances which helped to keep the advantage comfortably in Tazewell’s favor almost the entire evening.
Ali Moore was the most consistent performer for the Scarlet Hurricane in a tough situation.
“I’m not sure we came out mentally ready to play, even though we wanted to win this game,” said Moore. “I tried very hard to make some play to get us going but it just didn’t happen the way we wanted it to.”
Moore topped Marion with 10 points. Callie Mellinger worked hard evening inside for the Scarlet Hurricane and finished up with 8 points.
Tazewell’s Christian found her shooting eye early and was a factor in helping to spread out the Hurricane defenders with her accuracy, hitting successive treys in the opening stanza.
“When I started making shots, my teammates came to me and that’s what teammates do for each other,” said Christian.
Brown came in and was a positive for the Lady Dogs at both ends of the court, with her rebounding underneath and solid shooting.
“I had to come and do what was needed for my team. It was a great ball game,” she concluded.
Happy THS Jason Southworth agreed, saying, “We passed well at times and there were periods when we really shot the ball well. I was pleased with this game and I’m looking forward to seeing the same effort throughout the district tournament and next week in the region.”
The Lady Dogs finished solidly at the free throw line with aneffort and Marion had an even higher percentage, hitting an impressive 11-for-15 at the stripe.
At Tazewell Middle School
Bethany Richardson 0, Bakker Cullop 5, Bailey Ratliff 4, Ali Moore 10, Jordan Williams 9, Kate Pennington 8, Laura Lincoln 0, Callie Mellinger 8.
Taylor Catron 16, Whitney Saunders 14, Autumn Hash 8, Essence Brown 11, Haley Christian 11, Kaley Holloway 0, Alley Lee 1, Bri Sparks 0.
Marion................................8 9 6 17 — 40
Tazewell............................22 13 11 15 — 61
Three-point goals — MAR 3 (Williams 1, Ratliff 1, Moore 1); TAZ 6 (Christian 3, Catron 2, Saunders 1). Fouled out — none.