By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ROCKY GAP, Va. —
The Bland County Lady Bears weren’t about to let Fort Chiswell walk out with an easy win on Wednesday night.
The Lady Bears battled for 32 minutes on Senior Night at Rocky Gap High School, but they came up short 57-42.
“We knew before we came over that they’re always a tough team,” Fort Chiswell head coach Kristen Williams said. “They hustle and they’re good defensively. They always play well against us here at Rocky Gap. We knew with it being senior night it was going to be a hard fought game.”
Each time Bland County (2-12) found themselves in a hole, they worked their way back into the game. After trailing 17-10 after the first, the Bears rallied for a 26-24 halftime deficit. They kept the score close through the first few minutes of the third before the Pioneers (11-5) rebuilt their lead and held them off down the stretch.
“We went through a period in the third quarter where we didn’t score,” Bland County head coach Jason Lambert said. “We scoreboard watch and we start doing stupid stuff like rushing and panicking. Once we settle down, we’re fine.
“Give Fort Chiswell credit. [Sarah] Whisman stepped up for them when she had to. They made shots when they had to.”
Two free throws by Whisman started the scoring then Sadie Smith added a lay-up to make it 4-0. Julia Davis connected on a jumper for Bland County as they grabbed a 5-4 lead off a free throw by Danielle Russo.
Smith helped Fort Chiswell regain the lead with a three then Whisman added a drive. Davis hit a jumper to stop the Pioneers run and Amber Eaton added a lay-in, but Smith drained a three just before the buzzer to make it 17-10.
“I’m glad we got the early lead,” Williams said. “I was scared that if we come out and didn’t get going, we wouldn’t have any confidence. I was worried it would play on us mentally.”
Bland County kept attacking as they cut the margin to one on a three by Kristin Dillow. The teams traded scores as the Bears kept the game within reach. A drive by Whisman gave Fort Chiswell some breathing room and Emily Hight made one of two free throws.
The Bears made it 26-24 at the half following a jumper from Davis.
“They’ve done that all year,” Lambert said of his team battling back. “I’ll be honest, we’ve been frustrated – not only myself, but they are frustrated. We’re only giving up like 41 points a game this year, but we can’t score over 30.
“They get frustrate because we shoot and shoot in practice, but they get in the game and get in their minds. We had a tough schedule early and we lost confidence. I’m hoping these last two games have helped us build some confidence.”
Whisman found Hannah Havencamp to start the third quarter. A free throw by Alyssa Harris made it a three-point game with just over four minutes left, but that would be as close as the Lady Bears would get.
Smith hit another three then Hight hit two more free throws as Fort Chiswell went on a 9-2 run. A jumper by Davis stopped the run only momentarily as the Pioneers took a 41-31 lead into the final quarter.
“It was very nice,” Williams said of rebuilding their lead. “We have some girls with experience and it was nice to see them calm the freshmen down. I was proud of them. They kept playing.”
Bland County wasn’t about to give up and Dillow drilled a three to begin the last quarter. Whisman answered though with a three. The Bears kept coming at Fort Chiswell as Eaton made two free throws then hit Russo for an easy score.
Bland County cut the Pioneers’ lead to 46-40 on a jumper by Davis, but the Bears couldn’t keep their offense going.
They went cold the final four minutes and made only two free throws.
“The last two weeks we’ve gotten better,” Lambert said. “I told them memories aren’t made in December and January, but they’re made in February. If we’re the best 2-11, 2-12 team around, people don’t want to play us at the end of the year.
“As far as my team, I’m tickled with the way they played and I’m seeing improvement.”
Smith led Fort Chiswell with 19 points. Whisman added 13 and Amber Christlay had 10.
Davis’ 14 points paced Bland County. Russo chipped in with 10 and Dillow had 8. Harris finished with only 4 points, but grabbed 13 boards.
The Pioneers visit Grayson County on Friday while the Bears travel to Narrows tonight.
At Rocky Gap High School
FORT CHISWELL (11-5)
Amber Christay 10, Sadie Smith 19, Mooney 0, Woods 2, Turner 0, Sarah Whisman 13, Havencomp 8, Hight 5. Totals- 17 20-31 57.
BLAND COUNTY (2-11)
Julia Davis 14, Brinkley 0, Eaton 6, Danielle Russo 10, Holbrook 0, Smith 0, Harris 4, Dillow 8, Garland 0. Totals- 16 8-23 42.
Fort Chiswell......................17 9 15 16 — 57
Bland County.......................10 14 7 11 — 42
3 pt field goals: FC 4 (Smith 3, Whisman), BC 2 (Dillow 2). Fouled out- Eaton.