By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Bluefield College hopes to leave the Mid-South Conference with a bang.
They certainly have to face some big guns.
Bluefield College announced earlier this week that its athletic programs — other than football — would be leaving the MSC after two seasons and returning to the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
For now, the Rams are still part of the MSC, and will participate in the Mid-South tournament today at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn.
Ironically, neither one of Cumberland’s basketball teams finished in the top eight, and will have to watch from the seats.
Both Bluefield squads face tall tasks.
The eighth-seeded Lady Rams (14-14) will play No. 1 seed and fourth ranked Campbellsville (27-3) today in the opening round of the women’s tournament at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Bluefield College men (15-11), who are seeded seventh, will play No. 16 Georgetown (20-9) on Friday at 7 p.m. The Tigers, who won the NAIA national title last season, finished second in the MSC’s regular season behind No. 2 Pikeville.
The semifinals will be held Saturday, with the finals slated for Sunday.
The Lady Rams will face a familiar foe. Bluefield faced Campbellsville last Saturday in the regular season finale, dropping a 69-42 decision to the Tigers.
Bluefield, which trailed at the break 40-17, committed 33 turnovers and were just 3 for 15 from the free throw line.
Campbellsville also defeated the Rams 88-55 on Nov. 21.
Bluefield will be led by the senior duo of Teqa McNeal (15.8 ppg, 3.3 ast) and Janee Simmons (13.9 ppg, 8.4), who had 28 points and 14 rebounds in a win last Thursday over St. Catharine, and added 15 points and 14 more boards in the loss to the Tigers.
Asia Wheeler is also a key cog for the Lady Rams, averaging 13.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. Bluefield High School product Destiny Tolliver is ranked 10th in the nation with 55 blocked shots. Simmons is fifth in NAIA in shooting percentage at 55.6 percent.
Campbellsville has a balanced attack, which includes just two players scoring in double figures, Daizah Kimberlin (11.2 ppg, 5.5 reb) and Ellen Shoites (10.0 ppg).
The winner of today’s contest will face either Shawnee State or Lindsey Wilson in Saturday’s semifinals.
As for the Bluefield men, the Rams have dropped a pair of decisions to Georgetown this season, falling 89-74 and 84-73.
Bluefield, which did defeat the Tigers at home in its Mid-South debut last season, is making its first — and only — trip to the MSC tournament, failing to qualify for the postseason in 2013.
Bluefield will be led by its guard trio of Kearsten Marion (16.4 ppg, 3.2 ast), Andrew Wilson (11.8 ppg) and Kyle Grisby, along with Josh Nesbit (13.8 ppg, 7.7 reb) and leaping phenom Alex Lubsey (12.5 ppg, 6.0 reb). Nesbit is 11th in NAIA in field goal percentage at 56.0.
Georgetown is paced by Monty Wilson, who is averaging 23.5 points a game. Noah Cottrill (13.1 ppg), who has also played at West Virginia University and West Virginia Wesleyan, now plays for the Tigers, and has made 66 3s. Dominique Hagans is providing 15.7 points and 3.7 assists, while Deondre McWhorter (12.4 ppg, 8.2) reb is a force inside.
Friday’s winner will face either Cumberlands or Campbellsville in Saturday’s semifinals.
•Three seniors for the Bluefield men’s team have been selected to the All-MSC Academic Team, including Kearsten Marion, Josh Nesbit and Nick Stathopoulos.
•Both clubs will also be in action next week in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Mid-East Regionals.
The Bluefield men will host the event. Union University (11-15) and Tennessee Temple (19-11) will meet on Thursday at 5 p.m., with the Rams playing Hiwasseee (6-18) at 8.
The championship will be Friday at 6.
The Lady Rams will travel to Union in Jackson, Tenn., on Friday, and will face the homestanding Bulldogs at 6, followed by Lee and Tennessee Temple at 8.
The title game will be played Saturday at 7.
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org