By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
WISE, Va. —
Brookville’s path to Richmond got blocked by an Alley.
Rachel Alley didn’t block the last shot of the game, but her mere presence may have led to a missed layup by Anitra Thomas with 1.1 seconds left in overtime, allowing Richlands to advance to the Group AA, Division 3 state semifinals on Tuesday in Richmond.
“I had blocked her probably four times,” Alley said. “I am pretty sure that me being there and having good defense from the other girls, I just tried not to let them have any easy shots.”
Alley blocked a Group AA state tournament record 12 shots, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out five assists, as the Lady Blues overcame a 12-point third quarter deficit to defeat Brookville 47-45 in the Division 3 state quarterfinals at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise’s David J. Prior Convocation Center on Saturday afternoon.
The win made a fortune teller out of Richlands’ senior Cassidy Richardson, who said after a loss to Liberty-Bealeton in last year’s state semifinals that they would be back in Richmond.
“I am very, very proud of all of them,” Richlands head coach Dennis Palmer said. “These girls here, Cass and Brittany (Allen) and Rachel, they have been playing a long time, we have been together for a long time.
“They have got a lot of heart, they don’t like to lose and they are not going to lose. Cass said last year we are going to be back and we’re back.”
Richlands (22-4) will leave today for Richmond and will meet either Brunswick or Western Albemarle at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center. Tip-off on Tuesday is slated for 3 p.m.
“You don’t have much time,” Palmer said. “You just have to dig something up, read something, find out who their best player is and see what they can do and go from there.”
It wasn’t pretty, but the Lady Blues will take it. Brookville took 21 more shots (65-44) and had 16 more rebounds (49-32), but Richlands rallied from a double-digit third-quarter deficit and then survived missed shots at the end of regulation and overtime to advance.
“It was a game of attrition at the end, who was going to make the last play,” Brookville head coach Warner Dyke said. “They had a couple of kids make some plays at the end.”
Brittany Allen, who led all scorers with 20 points, including 14 in the second half, put Richlands up to stay with a pair of free throws with 12.2 seconds left on the clock.
Allen came out of the break by scoring eight points, and eventually made 9-of-13 from the charity stripe. Richardson added 11 points and MaKenley Davis had two 3s and eight points.
“It was very frustrating (early), but I knew if I didn’t come out in the second half and was there for my team more that we were going to home,” Allen said. “They picked me up and luckily we got the win.”
For much of the game, it appeared the Bees would be bound for Richmond. BriAna Barksdale led Brookville with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Thomas added 15. In the opening half alone, the Bees had 31 rebounds, including 17 on the offensive end, but couldn’t convert them into baskets.
Richlands shot just 18 percent (4-22) in the opening half, but the Bees were just 7 for 35.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well and that has a little bit to do with the size of this building and a new gym and being at this stage and being in a state quarterfinal game,” Brookville head coach Warner Dyke said. “Richlands was defending us too.”
“I thought we stayed pretty aggressive throughout the game, but she did her job blocking shots and stayed out of foul trouble so that really helped them in the paint.” Warner said.
The 6-foot-1 senior, who will play volleyball at Bluefield College, had gotten in foul trouble early in the state quarterfinal win over Rustburg last year, but managed to stay in this game and dominate, either blocking or altering shots.
“That was the whole goal not to foul out because I got in foul trouble last year,” Alley said. “I didn’t even know (how many I had), I knew I had blocked some shots, but it felt pretty good.”
She had eight of her 12 blocks in the first half, including four in each of the first two quarters. Alley, who had nine blocks in the Lady Blues’ Region IV title game win over Patrick County, has 21 rejections in her last two games.
“If you have somebody like that down low you can put a little more pressure on the ball,” Palmer said. “If you get beat you have somebody back there that is going to make it up for you.
“She is a great defensive player, she does a great job, and she is probably averaging 13 or 14 rebounds a game, she does a great job for us.”
Brookville (18-8) forced 11 first half turnovers by pressuring the ball and frustrating the Lady Blues into mistakes. The Bees were able to get offensive putbacks and layups in transition to build a 20-11 lead at the break.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half, they kind of kicked our hind ends in the first half and we came out in the second half and played with a lot of heart,” Palmer said.
“The first half we struggled a little bit with their pressure, they got up into us a little bit and we turned the ball over. We were really not used to seeing that kind of pressure in our regular season.”
Richlands made adjustments at the break, switching to a man-to-man defense and putting sophomore Montana Hearl on Thomas, who had just five points in the second half.
“Montana did an excellent job on her, she played great defense on her,” Palmer said. “I don’t know how many she scored in the second half, but it wasn’t a whole lot, she did a great job in the second half.”
Brookville went up 29-17 with 5:14 on the clock before the Lady Blues began its comeback, led by a four-guard offense that penetrated for baskets, while Richardson, Davis and Hearl all had 3s.
It was Hearl’s shot from the top of the key that tied the score at 39-39 with 1:34 to go in the fourth quarter, and Richardson followed with a pair of free throws for the 41-39 advantage, the first for Richlands since it was 5-4.
That lead didn’t last long, with Barksdale connecting to tie the score at 41-41 with 19 seconds on the clock. The Bees followed by forcing a turnover and Brookville got the final shot of regulation, but Thomas’ 3 hit the back of the rim.
The lead went back and forth twice in the extra period on an offensive putback by Alley and a four straight free throws from the Bees. Allen was then fouled on an inbounds pass and made two free tosses to put the Blues up 46-45.
Brookville called a timeout, worked the ball to Thomas, who drove to the left side of the basket and hurried a shot that hit off the bottom of the rim. Alley grabbed the rebound, made one of two free throws and the Blues celebrated the win.
“The kid missed a shot, that happens,” Warner said. “We missed 41 shots in the game so that is one missed shot, that is all.”
Richlands plays next in two days in the state semifinals in Richmond. That is old news. They want to stay longer this season.
“We aren’t finished yet,” Allen said. “The Final Four is not satisfying to us, we want to make it all the way for sure.”
“It was really heart-breaking last year, but we were there, and we have a really good team here,” added Richardson, whose 11 points included the 1,000th point of her career. “I think we can make it all the way. Like Brittany said, we are not satisfied, we want to make it all the way.”
— Contact Brian Woodson
At Prior Convocation Center
BriAna Barksdale 7-12 2-2 16, Taneisha Graves 1-12 2-3 4, Letti Jeffries 3-14 0-0 6, Anitra Thomas 3-15 6-6 15, Ashton Hayes 2-7 0-0 4, Kiala Marshall 0-3 0-0 0, Alexis Rosser 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16 10-11 45.
MaKenley Davis 2-11 2-2 8, Cassidy Richardson 4-11 2-2 11, Brittany Allen 5-14 9-13 20, Sarah Compton 0-1 0-0 0, Rachel Alley 2-3 1-4 5, Montana Hearl 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 14 14-21 47.
Brookville……………9 11 11 10 4 — 45
Richlands……………6 5 15 15 6 — 47
3-point goals: BV 3-11 (Thomas 3-6, Graves 0-3, Jeffries 0-2); RL 5-17 (Davis 2-9, Allen 1-6, Richardson 1-1, Hearl 1-1). Reb: BV 49 (Barksdale 12); RL 32 (Alley 11). Ast: 11 (Jeffries 3, Thomas 3); RL 8 (Alley 5). Total fouls: BV 16; RL 13. Technicals: none.