Fleming comes from behind to gain edge in Conference 24

Terrell Smith hustles after a loose ball. PHOTO BY BRIAN HOFFMAN

The William Byrd boys are battling for a high seed and a bye in the Conference 24 tournament as the regular season nears an end. Byrd, William Fleming and Pulaski County are fighting for two first round byes.

Byrd was at Pulaski on Wednesday night for a Conference 24 game, but results were too late for publication. The Terriers came into that game at 11-6 while Pulaski was 9-6 after being upset by Salem last Friday night.

Fleming currently has the best record among the six Conference 24 teams at 11-4. Salem, Carroll County and Bassett all have losing records and are battling for the fourth seed in the conference, which will get a first round home game.

The Terriers lost a chance to put themselves in a good position last Saturday when they lost to Fleming in Vinton, 55-50. Byrd led through three quarters but everything fell apart in the fourth, as the Colonels outscored Byrd 23-14 to finish strong and win the game.

“We played well for three and a half quarters,” said Byrd coach Kevin Tuck. “We turned the ball over too often, and it caught up to us.”

Byrd had seven turnovers in the first half and 13 in the second, including two crucial ones in the final minute. Down a point, the Terriers were called for an unforced walk. Then, down three with a chance to tie in the final seconds, they threw the ball out of bounds. Fleming hit two free throws on the other end for the final margin of victory.

“Fleming’s a good defensive team,” said Tuck. “We had chances to finish it off, but we didn’t get it done.”

It didn’t help that Fleming shot 17 free throws in the fourth quarter alone while Byrd had three. The Terriers also finished four for 20 on three point attempts while Fleming’s Von Saunders alone had five. And with all that, Byrd still had a good chance to win at the end.

“It would have been a good game to win,” said Tuck. “We probably can’t catch them now, which means we’d have to play over there if we meet them in the tournament. That’s okay, it’s a good atmosphere at Fleming and we’ve beaten them there before.”

Devon Kasey led Byrd against Fleming with 16 points and nine rebounds. Steven Olsen had 11 points and 10 boards while Alex Fitch had 13 and six. Shawn Williams went scoreless but had nine rebounds.

Byrd bounced back from the loss with a 57-44 win over Staunton River on Tuesday in the second game of a girls-boys doubleheader in Vinton. Byrd led 29-13 at the half and cruised to the win.

“We got the big lead early and we probably let up a little,” said Tuck. “They closed it to 13 or 14 in the second half but never really threatened.”

Kasey had 16 points and Jaylen Wheeler had 13, including 11 at the line.

Last week in Salem the Terriers had no trouble with Conference 24 rival Salem. Byrd led 47-21 at the half and finished with a 74-47 win, as Salem had as many points in the whole game as Byrd had by halftime. Kasey had 13, Olsen had 11, Williams had 10 and 10 different Terriers scored.

After Wednesday’s game at Pulaski Byrd will be off until Tuesday, January 31, at Northside. The Vikings are 13-4 and, although it’s not a conference game, it is a district game and they all count in the VHSL ranking system for the post-season tournament.