By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In the final five seconds of Saturday's 75-55 victory by the Bluefield State College Lady Blues over Concord University, a couple of BSC fans in the dark back rows of the Carter Center bleachers called out an unusual declaration.
“Sweep! Sweep!” they said.
It has been 12 years since the Bluefield State women's team won their two regular-season conference games against the Lady Lions.
The last time BSC completed the sweep, on Feb. 15, 2001, their leading scorer was Tracy Wyatt, in her only year as a Bluefield State player. She is now the head coach of the Graham High girls' basketball team.
Bluefield State head coach J.J. Oliver said, “We told our young ladies, we're playing a rivalry basketball game, with the opportunity to finish the regular season above .500 for the first time in who knows when.
“We've got the opportunity to finish the conference above .500. We've got something to play for.”
The Lady Blues are now 13-12 overall and 11-11 in West Virginia Conference games.
Neither team got ahead by more than four points in the first half. The teams traded baskets on three straight possessions in a two-minute stretch. Then no one scored in the final minute of the half, and the homestanding Lady Lions (7-21, 6-16) carried a 34-32 lead into the locker room.
Oliver said, “The first half, we had some trouble with them on the dribble penetration. We're a little bigger than they are, and we had some matchup problems on the defensive end … . They did a good job of getting some good one-on-one opportunities at the basket, catching us standing up, not down, playing defense. That really hurt us.”
“The second half, we started in a little zone just to kind-of mentally stop them a little bit from having a mindset of driving it. Then we went back (to) man.”
In the first 20 minutes, half of Concord's points came off of turnovers. The Lady Blues gave up the ball 11 times. Bluefield State held a 22-16 rebounding advantage at intermission, and had produced seven second-chance points to Concord's two.
Oliver said, “The first half, offensively, we settled for some of those three-point shots – which, if they go in, it's a different ballgame. But they didn't. So we had to go back to where our strength is, and that's inside and working it back out.”
Regarding Concord's defense, Oliver said, “The first half, we got into the press and we rushed it a little bit, took some shots that were kind of uncharacteristic of us. I think we went back to being balanced overall in terms of our production. Everybody that we had come in were able to help us and give us a lift.”
“We look to try to get out in transition. We emphasized over the last day, that we wanted to run. Our transition game is called 'Jet.' Before the game started, on the board, I just wrote 'Jet jet jet jet jet.' So we went out and mentally, we were trying to take advantage of some opportunities that were not there … .
“The second half, we just basically told them to settle down, because in the half-court, we didn't feel like they matched up very well with us, as far as being able to guard us in the post. I thought we did a good job of being patient and taking advantage of that.”
Bluefield State's Jenaya Abernathy sank a foul shot with 13:32 left to put the Lady Blues ahead for good, and Tasia Nolan followed with a putback of Abernathy's missed free throw for a 44-41 lead.
That came in the midst of an 11-minute stretch in which Concord could not sink a field goal. The Lady Lions wound up going 5 for 25 from the field in the second half.
Oliver said, “Things came down to defense. We hold them to 20 points, the second half. They only shoot 20 percent the second half, and that makes a big difference. They go from 40 percent to 20 percent.”
Concord trimmed the gap to 60-54 on back-to-back layups by senior Tanisha Williams and sophomore Rachel Artrip around the four-minute mark, but Bluefield State went 11 for 12 at the foul line after that and got a pair of transition layups from Lawanna Gravely to build their final lead.
Concord got a single point, on a free throw by Williams.
Concord head coach Kenny Osborne said, “They battled. We had a good first half, but Bluefield State played a lot better in the second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
Charlene Diggs was 3 for 6 from three-point range and canned 11 of 12 free throw tries to lead all scorers with 20 points. Shae Mebane, a force in the paint for Bluefield State, had 14 points and two blocked shots.
Kelli Morgan came off the bench and grabbed seven rebounds.
It was the last regular-season game for Diggs, a BSC senior who did not play in her team's 89-69 win on Jan. 5 because she had the flu.
After Bluefield State's senior night ended Thursday with a last-minute loss, she said Saturday, “I wanted to come out here and get that respect back. We tried to get a good pressure on them, and tried to get a good seeding at tournament time.”
Bluefield State made 11 of its 24 field-goal attempts in the second half.
The Lady Blues wound up getting 30 points in the paint to Concord's 18, snagged 42 rebounds to their hosts' 33, and made 22 of 26 foul shots.
Diggs noted, “We shot the ball great from the free-throw line, so our free throws really counted, too.”
Williams, in her final game in Athens, had 14 points and four assists for Concord. Fellow senior Katy Somerville had 11 points. Jacqueline Kestner provided 10 rebounds. Sammi Webster had 10 points and four steals, and Stephanie Wagner dished six assists.
Diggs said, “Katy Somerville, she did a really good job of running the threes off the screen. … She's not that fast, but she runs off screens very well. So I give credit to her tonight, because she played a really good game.”
Another Concord starter was missing, the latest in a season of injuries. Head coach Kenny Osborne said Amanda Smith pulled a hamstring at Glenville State on Thursday.
He said, “She's day-to-day. We'll see how she is tomorrow (Sunday), and hopefully we'll have her for Monday night.”
Osborne said, “It's just been that type of year, with the injuries working out the way it has. It's just one of those things.”
Bluefield State, which harbored slim hopes of finishing in the top eight in the league, concluded in 10th place and will travel to the seventh seed, Shepherd University for Monday's first-round game of the WVIAC tournament. Concord landed in 12th place and will make the long trip to fifth-ranked Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa.
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com