It was not different Wednesday night against Virginia High in the Region 2D quarterfinals at Union’s Bear Den gym.
All five Union starters scored in double figures and played a prohibitive zone defense that shut down Virginia High’s explosive offense for most of the second half in a 74-56 Union win.
“We’ve been together all season, and we’ve really bonded,” said Union Alex Rasnick, who scored 15 points in the victory. “We’re just good teammates and good friends on and off the court.”
With the win, Union (15-11) advanced to Friday’s Region 2D semifinals. The Bears will take on Southwest District top seed Graham in the 7:30 p.m. game at Graham Middle School in Bluefield.
Graham defeated John Battle 60-59 in overtime Wednesday in the regional quarterfinals.
The other Friday regional semifinal game will pit rivals Gate City and Wise Central against each other after the two Mountain 7 teams picked up Wednesday quarterfinal wins over SWD foes Lebanon and Richlands.
Gavin Austin led Virginia High (13-12) with 29 points, but it was Union’s balance that made a big difference in the outcome.
In addition to Rasnick’s 15 points, Union got a team-high 21 points from freshman Andy Jones, while Justin Falin had a double-double performance with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Noah Garrison added 11 points and seven rebounds and Connor Giza finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“That’s when we’re at our best,” Union coach Zack Moore said of the balance from his players. “When we don’t have one or two scoring. When we’ve got all five guys scoring the basketball, sharing the ball or driving to score.
Union held a slim 29-23 halftime lead. But the Bears opened up the lead to double digits in the third quarter and maintained the lead the rest of the way.
Moore said switching from a man-to-man defense to a zone was a plus for his squad as well.
“We switched to the zone there in the second (quarter) and we stayed with it the whole second half. I thought that was a big difference, too, because we turned them into jump shooters and they like to drive the ball to the basket,” said Moore.
WINNING THE BOARDS
Union also made a big difference in the game by winning the rebounding battle.
Led by Falin, Garrison and Giza on the boards, Union outrebounded Virginia High 38-23 in the contest.
“We got outworked on the boards tonight,” said Virginia High coach Wayne Rasnick. “They’re a big team. They got a lot of meat on their bones, and they pushed us around a little bit and they out-rebounded us a little bit, and I feel like that was the difference in the third quarter. That’s what got us.”