By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
The Ice Lady Cometh.
Brittney Allen could barely walk when the game ended but she was able to shoulder the load and seemed to will Richlands to a come-from-behind 46-35 Region IV tournament semifinal win over a valiant Tazewell teamTuesday. The Lady Blue Tornado (21-4) advances to the state tournament for a third successive season, while the heartbroken Lady Bulldogs (15-12) were stopped by RHS for a fourth consecutive time this season, three times on the Tornado court, and saw their season end.
Trailing 26-17 with 4:10 to go in the third quarter, Richlands reeled off a 16-0 run and took a 33-26 lead into the final frame. Forcing Tazewell into an up-tempo game, the resourceful Lady Blues had a near-flawless four minutes that made all the difference.
“We knew if we didn’t step up, our season was over,” smiled Allen, her left leg bandaged and covered with an ice pack after the game. “They (Tazewell) got up big early and we had to do something – or else.”
Allen was a integral part of the “or else” as she pumped in 19 points, combining with steady Montana Hearl (12) for 31 of the Blue point total. Allen was 6-7 at the line, nailed 3 treys, and led an amazing third quarter surge. Makenley Davis also popped in a pair of three-pointers for the Tornado.
Autumn Hash, as had become her habit late in the season, once again helped the Lady Dogs forge an early lead, scoring six quick points to give THS an 8-2 advantage with 4:52 left in the opening quarter. Kaley Holloway was another major factor in the early success with rebounding and defense. Hash, too, did more than score, pulling down five rebounds and blocking three shots before the break.
Led by Whitney Saunders’ step-for-step defense, Tazewell gave Richlands no rest in the opening half, contesting virtually every shot and dominating the defensive boards. The Lady Dogs allowed just four points in the second stanza, a steal-and-score by Cassidy Richardson and bucket by Allen. Saunders played much of the second half with four fouls but stayed on the court throughout.
After halftime, it appeared that Tazewell was ready to pick right up behind sizzling Haley Christian. The sharp-shooting junior fired in a baseline jumper, fired another in off the glass, and stepped back from the top of the key and hammered home a three-pointer, all within the first two minutes. She finished with 11 points, and three treys, despite missing much of the second half.
“We all played together. We never gave up. I thought our first half defense was awesome and we really tried to keep to our game plan. Richlands got hot in the second half.”
At that point, the Dogs were up by 9. A few Tazewell substitutions later, mixed in with Richlands red-hot shooting touch, made all the difference. Over the next six minutes, nothing went right for the Lady Dogs and Allen teamed with Hearl to right the Blue attack. Every THS miss seemed to result in a Blue bucket at the other end, fueled by the twin Tornado titans.
“We picked up the tempo in the second half,” noted RHS coach Dennis Palmer. “Tazewell condensed the game on us, shortened it, and we had to adjust to that. When we did, Brittney stepped up, Montana did a good job, the whole team showed heart tonight. It was a total team effort. I’m proud to be going back to the state playoffs with this team.”
Hash had another stellar effort, leading the Dogs with 15 points and 9 rebounds.
Taylor Catron finished her THS career, noting, “We came out really strong. We just couldn’t bounce back from the way Richlands started shooting in the second half and our own misses. It was so hard to have that happen but this team played hard every second out there.”
She said, “We knew what had to be done and we tried so hard. I can honestly say that every player on the team left it all on the court tonight. We all gave it everything we had.”
At Richlands Middle School
Taylor Catron 5, Whitney Saunders 2, Autumn Hash 15, Haley Christian 11, Kaley Holloway 4.
Montana Hearl 12, Makenley Davis 7, Cassidy Richardson 2, Brittney Allen 19, Sarah Compton 4, Rachel Alley 1.
Tazewell..................................10 7 8 8 — 35
Richlands...............................11 4 18 13 — 46
Three-point goals – RIC, 5 (Allen 3, Davis 2). TZ, 3 (Christian 3).
Fouled out –none.