Sweet sweep
Richlands (68) Vs. Tazewell (35)
Feb 16, 2016
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. — The Tazewell boys basketball has made fundamental improvements this season under veteran coach Tom Rife. Anybody with even a little bit of knowledge about high school basketball has noticed.
But Rife hasn’t been the only basketball coach in Tazewell County looking to change a basketball culture.
Taylor Horn and Scottie Ball combined for 25 points off the bench and second-seeded Richlands took a 68-35 win over the Bulldogs in Tuesday’s opening round of the Southern Empire Conference boys basketball tournament at Richlands Middle School.
The Blues were facing an opponent they’d soundly beaten twice before. And still, the gymnasium was seething with enthusiastic Richlands basketball fans who obviously want to find out if Fred Phillips can lead them into unfamiliar territory.
“We’ve never won a regional game,” reminded Phillips, whose team outscored Tazewell 23-4 in the third quarter to put the game away for good.
“One of my personal goals has been to change the atmosphere a little bit around here ... and get people excited about basketball. We’ve done that. I see people in the gym I haven’t seen in years coming out to watch these kids,” he said.
The Blue Tornado (15-4) advances to Thursday’s semifinal against either Grayson County of Virginia with a chip firmly on their shoulder.
Denied a regular-season rematch with county rival Graham due to inclement weather and the nuances of SEC regular season points system, Richlands hopes to see the G-Men in the tournament finals (if top-seeded Graham is fortunate enough to survive its own semifinal hurdles).
“Oh yes. We want to face them,” Phillips said. “But we have another ... game to play in order to get to Graham. We have to play better the next game to survive one more game.”
The Bulldogs (2-18) only trailed 15-11 after the first quarter and lagged by 10 at halftime after getting eight points in the second period from Alex VanHoozer.
“We came out a little sloppy. You have to credit Tazewell for coming out here and not taking anything for granted,” Phillips said. “I think we came out a little flat. Why, I don’t know. Maybe the (snow-related) layoff.
“I think we responded well in the second half, but we have a long ways to go to get to where we want to go.”
Horn hit a 3-pointer on his way to 13 point to lead the Blues. Lowe finished with 12 points. Cody Fuller hit a couple of 3s en route to 12 points. Scottie Ball tossed in eight points.
“I thought our freshman, Taylor Horn, really sparked us. And our big boy, Landon Lowe rebounded the ball really well and made the extra pass,” Phillips said. “But really, I thought the effort was there from everybody in the second half.”
Dakota Griffith scored 11 points to pace the Bulldogs.
“I know the price of gas has dropped, but we ran out of it,” quipped Rife, who said the snow day layoff hurt his team’s conditioning. “We hadn’t had a game in over a week and we’d practiced very little because of the weather. We weren’t able to stay in the routine we were in. But I don’t want to take anything away from Richlands.”
Rife praised his squad’s season-long effort. He was proud not only of the little changes that people could see, but especially the ones that people couldn’t.
“People don’t see things going on behind the scenes, like players calling the coaches wanting to practice, asking the coaches to help them after practice. That’s what I’ve meant by incremental change,” Rife said. “I wouldn’t trade my kids for anybody.”

At Richlands Middle School
Dakota Griffith 4 3-5 11, Hunter Mullins 1 0-0 2, Josh Murray 0 0-0 0, T.J. Kitts 0 3-4 3, Alex VanHoozer 4 0-2 8, Dakota Crouse 2 1-2 5, Ben Samaniego 2 3-4 6, Jason Watson 0 0-0 0, Pierce VanHoozer 2 3-4 6. Totals 13 10-17 35.
Luke Phillips 2 2-2 -6, Grant Herndon 1 0-0 2, Will Moir 1 0-0 3, Cody Fuller 4 2-2 12, Ethan Ratliff 1 0-0 3, Mackenzie Smith 0 2-2 2, Ben Thomason 1 0-0 3, Taylor Horn 5 2-2 13, Scottie Ball 2 4-8 8, Cameron Hedrick 0 0-0 0, Landon Lowe 6 0-0 12. Totals 25 12-16 68.
Tazewell....................11 12 4 8 — 35
Richlands..................15 18 23 12 — 68
3-point goals: Tazewell (none), Richlands 6 (Moir, Fuller 2, Ratliff, Thomason, Horn).
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Richlands 15 18 23 12 0 68
Tazewell 11 12 4 8 0 35
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