Eastside's Matt Green (24) works against Galax's Keyshawn Brown (10) during Friday's 1A West semifinal at Virginia High in Bristol, Va. (Ned Jilton II photo)
BRISTOL, Va. — An eye infection knocked Cliff Conley out of Galax’s starting lineup a while back, shuffling him into the role of a dangerous sixth man for the Maroon Tide.
When Conley came off the bench early in Galax’s VHSL Region 1A West semifinal contest against Eastside on Friday night at Virginia High, it was clear that his eye was all better. Conley knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to get the Maroon Tide back into the game, three more in the third to put them ahead and a pair of daggers early in the fourth to propel Galax to a 50-46 win.
The Maroon Tide (20-4) will face Radford in the championship game Saturday night, but for the Spartans (18-7), Friday’s loss marked the end of a magical postseason run.
“I take my hat off to Eastside,” said Galax coach Verl Brown. “They’ve got a good ballclub, well disciplined. For a school that hasn’t been this far before, I thought they handled it well.”
If the Spartans were nervous, they certainly didn’t show it in the opening minutes of the game. Eastside sprinted out to a 9-1 lead as Galax’s posts struggled to convert in the paint.
“I thought we kind of had them back on their heels to start the game,” said Eastside coach Patrick Damron. “Foul trouble dictated how much we could press, but I thought our press obviously did some good things for us.”
But Conley managed to knock down a pair of 3s during a 12-0 run that gave the Tide a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The run extended to 16-1 early in the second quarter while Eastside missed 12 straight field goal attempts before righting the ship to tie the game at 19 at the half.
When the third quarter started, Galax’s big men started going to work on the offensive glass, and it paid dividends almost immediately. The Tide pulled down seven offensive boards in the period, and the second-chance points that resulted from those boards took the wind out of Eastside’s sails.
“We knew they were very disciplined,” Damron said. “They’re going to spread you out and if they don’t get their first shot, they get their second shot. We played really good first-shot defense, and then they would get an offensive rebound and stick it in. That’s really deflating.”
Conley hit a pair of 3-pointers near the end of the quarter to help Galax take a six-point lead into the final period. Both those shots came after the Tide pulled down an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive.
Conley opened the final quarter with a pair of 3s, and the quick 8-0 run put Galax up 41-27. Eastside battled back to make it interesting in the final minute, but the Spartans never managed to make it a one-possession game.
“Conley’s a great shooter,” Damron said. “Some of them he was open, some of them we challenged him. But honestly, it was those second-chance buckets.”
Ryan Milgrim and Matt Green scored 14 points each to lead the Spartans. Conley’s 24 points were tops for Galax, which heads into Saturday’s title game with some unfinished business against a Radford squad that dispensed of Honaker in impressive fashion, 75-44, in the other semifinal.
“This gives us four out of five years with 20 wins, and that just means a lot,” Brown said. “But we’re not done yet. We’re coming back tomorrow night.”comments powered by Disqus