By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Pressure. It can make or break a basketball team.
Pressure applied by a defense to an offense can force the team into turnovers and mistakes.
Saturday afternoon at Ned Shott Gymnasium, the Bluefield State College Lady Blues applied the pressure to the Concord Lady Mountain Lions and came away with a victory over their Mercer County and WVIAC rivals 89-69.
“We wanted to jump out on them and make a statement,” said BSC head coach J.J. Oliver. “It was very important that we play to our expectation that we want to start out every game controlling the game and making sure we get points in transition.”
Concord’s first possession resulted in a shot clock violation and the pressure continued to mount.
BSC opened a 13-8 lead utilizing its full court press and attacking defense and three minutes into the game, CU’s post player, Andrea Bertrand, who scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds Thursday against Charleston, was on the bench with two fouls.
The Lady Blues’ lead grew to nine points before Leslie Mack’s bucket brought Concord to within five with 11 minutes to go in the half.
Tori Patrick came off the Bluefield bench to drill a three, Tiffany Moorer made two free throws and Charity Harris stole the ball at midcourt, made the basket and the ensuing free throw to give Bluefield State a 33-21 advantage with seven minutes to go in the opening half.
With 3:32 to play before halftime Bertrand was whistled for her third personal foul, a call not to the liking of Concord head coach Kenny Osborne. Osborne was then assessed a second technical and ejected from the game, assistant coach Jamie Cluesman taking over the reins of the Lady Lions.
Following the contest Osborne said, “If the conference did not have a gag order I would tell you what I thought.”
Harris made three of four technical free throws and Tasia Nolan made two foul shots and the Lady Blues held a 22-point lead 47-25.
BSC took a 51-29 lead into the break.
Rachel Artrip, Concord’s other post player, also suffered from foul trouble in the first half.
For Bluefield State, it was the Charity Harris show as she made six of seven shots from the field, including two threes, and five of seven from the charity stripe for 19 points, dished out three assists, blocked two shots and swiped the ball once in the first 20 minutes of action.
“She’s the engine that makes us run,” Oliver said. “We are able to play the tempo that we want, pushing transition every opportunity that we get. There are not too many people who can keep her in front of them when she gets going. When she is pushing the ball down the floor, it opens up a lot of things for everybody else on the team.”
Concord came out reinvigorated in the second half. Two minutes into the half State’s big, Shae Mebane went to the bench with her fourth foul. Concord, meanwhile chipped away at the Bluefield State lead and had cut the Lady Blues’ advantage in half, from 22 to 11 points, 58-47 with 15:00 on the clock.
It got closer as a Katy Somerville popped a trey to bring the Lady Lions to within eight at 60-52.
“We came out with a lot of intensity, we just couldn’t fight through the fatigue and put together a 20-minute half,” Cluesman said. “Obviously if we don’t have our best post player out there, a dominant force inside, when she has to sit on the bench, that happens.”
For the next five minutes play turned sloppy as both teams committed turnovers and fouls before Bluefield State regained its composure and began to pull away once again.
Moorer put through two free throws, Shay Gravely hit a long three and the BSC lead grew to 16.
Both Artrip and Bertrand returned to the floor for Concord, each with four fouls, with 5:35 left to play, but it would prove to be too little, too late for the Lady Lions.
Harris led Bluefield State and all scorers with 25 points. She added four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. Nolan tallied 11 points with five boards, an assist and two blocks.
Mebane finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal and Gravely came of the bench to score 10 points, snag seven rebounds and pass out two assists.
The Lady Blues played without their second leading scorer, Charlene Diggs, who was suffering with the flu.
Bluefield State out-rebounded Concord 50-36 and for the game shot 46 percent, compared to 35 percent for the Lady Lions.
Amanda Smith led CU with 16 points and Bertrand scored 13. Jacqueline Kestner had a game-high eight rebounds along with three assists and four steals. Stephanie Wagner finished the game with eight assists.
Bluefield State improved to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the WVIAC. Concord fell to 3-9 overall and 2-4 in conference play.
The Lady Blues are back in action Monday night as they welcome Davis & Elkins to Ned Shott Gymnasium. Concord travels to Ohio Valley on Monday night.
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com