By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ROCKY GAP, Va. —
Richlands knew they were in for a tough match-up with Bland County.
The Blue Tornado threw everything they had at the Bears, but Bland County was able to battle their way to a 69-51 win on Wednesday at Rocky Gap High School.
“Richlands just kept coming,” Bland County head coach Rich Hankins said. “They attacked from every single angle possible. We went up 15, 16 and we thought we could get it 22, 24, but that bunch kept coming. For us, it’s been an up and down break.
“We went to Tazewell and played well for a half. You could tell tonight we weren’t as sharp as we should have been. I give my kids a lot of credit. They hung in there and answered every challenge Richlands threw at us.”
Two of the Bears starters – Asher Dillow and Darryl Clark – were limited with injuries. Neither started the game, but provided a spark midway through the first quarter that allowed Bland County to take the lead for good.
“I think they’re good,” Richlands head coach Jody Fuller said. “I think they have some great perimeter players who are as good as any around here. I know they weren’t full speed tonight and I don’t want to see them when they are.”
The teams trade three pointers to start the game as Gabe Hunsaker drained two for Richlands. Chase Hankins and Kalub Lambert had one apiece for the Bears to make it 6-6 early in the first.
Dillow and Clark made their first appearances four minutes into the game and made their presence know.
Dillow hit a jumper and a free throw then Clark found Jonathan Goins. Clark connected on a jumper before Dillow connected from deep to make it 16-6. Bland County would not lose the lead again.
The Bears hit four free throws to close out the quarter on a 14-1 run. Richlands’ only point was off a Kyle Call free throw.
Bland County went cold to start the second quarter as the Blue Tornado cut the deficit to 10. The Bears answered though with a three from Clark. Clark capped off a 9-0 run with a reverse fastbreak lay-up to make it 29-10 with just under three minutes left in the period.
Richlands kept battling and made a run of their own. Ben Brown went coast-to-coast for a score and Hunsaker added a lay-up. With time running down, J.T. Anderson hit a turnaround jumper to trim the margin to 32-18.
“They’re great kids,” Fuller said of his team not giving up. “These kids have been dealt adversity this year. We’ve had some kids leave the team.
“They don’t quit and they show up everyday and work hard. I’m proud of them. They represent the town well.”
The Blue Tornado kept the momentum going in the third quarter as they came out in a 1-3-1 zone.
Brown led the charge with a steal and fastbreak lay-up after a nice putback. Hunsaker added two free throws and lay-up as Richlands cut the deficit to single digits.
“We struggle with our man,” Fuller said. “We still work it everyday. We have some team length and we move well in [the zone] so it can cause problems. It keeps us in the ball game.”
Nine points was as close as the Blue Tornado would get. Dillow made a tough drive to the basket and Chase Hankins closed the quarter out with a fastbreak slam.
“We went to a four-guard line-up,” coach Hankins said of facing the 1-3-1 zone. “That kind of helped us spread them out. We really looked to reverse the basketball and attack on the weak side. But we still aren’t making the extra pass like I want us to and really looking to get that next man involved offensively.”
A three pointer by Clark started the fourth quarter as the Bears began to pull away. Clark followed that with a bank shot then Dillow took a steal in for a score to make it 50-31 with seven minutes left in the game.
Richlands tried to make one last push with a three from Brown and free throws from Hunsaker and Call, but it wasn’t enough. Dillow found Miller open underneath and Hankins broke the press for several lay-ups.
“We made some extra passes at the end of the break from their pressure which gave us some confidence and we were able to finish the game up on a pretty good run,” coach Hankins said.
Clark finished with a game-high 23 points. Hankins had 20 points and Dillow added 13 points.
Coach Hankins added, “Those kids played with a lot heart and showed a lot of character staying in there tonight.”
Hunsaker paced Richlands with 18 points. Brown chipped in with 12 points while Call had 10.
The Blue Tornado (1-5) host Marion Friday while Bland County (8-3) welcomes rival Narrows to Bland High School.
At Rocky Gap High School
Will Moir 0, Kyle Call 10, Trent Davis 4, Mark Sahyouni 0, J.T. Anderson 3, Ben Brown 12, Zach Johnson 1, Evan Meadows 3, Gabe Hunsaker 18, Anthony Austin 0. Totals- 15 16-128 51.
BLAND COUNTY (8-3)
Asher Dillow 13, Jonathan Goins 4, Jonah Miller 0, Tyler White 0, Tyler Faulkner 0, Darryl Clark 23, Andy Pauley 0, Chase Hankins 20, Kalub Lambert 3, John Miller 6, Derek French 0. Totals- 26 11-17 69.
Richlands...............................7 11 12 21 – 51
Bland County........................20 12 11 26 – 69
3 pt field goals: RIC 5 (Call 2, Hunsaker 2, Brown); BC 6 (Clark 3, Dillow, Hankins, Lambert). Fouled out- Goins. JV- Bland 43-34.