Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 12, 2014

Connecticut bound

Lady Blues advance to ECAC semis

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — They saved their best for last.

The Bluefield State Lady Blues played their final home game of the season Wednesday night and honored its seniors who were taking to the court at Ned Shott Gymnasium for the final time.

Seniors Jenaya Abernathy, Shay Gravely and Kearah Jefferys each scored in double digits to lead the Lady Blues to a 78-71 win over Lindenwood University in the East Coast Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

Bluefield State will now take on West Virginia State in the ECAC semifinals, Saturday afternoon in Fairfield, Conn.

“It’s the biggest win since we’ve been here,” said BSC head coach J.J. Oliver. “We are not in a conference. This is an invitational tournament and we beat a team from Missouri. We didn’t know them, they didn’t know us, but I guarantee you they know us now. That’s a well-coached team.

“We are going to Connecticut and come back with some hardware.”

The Lady Blues took control of the game early and opened an eight point lead, 13-5, thanks to two field goals and a three by Abernathy. Lindenwood’s Lions roared back to within three on Morgan Johnson’s trey with just under 12 minutes to play before halftime.

Bluefield State stormed back to increase its advantage. Jefferys’ lay up off an Abernathy steal put the Lady Blues up 15 and Gravely’s three with just over a minute to go in the half put the Lady Blues ahead by 16 and State took a 13 point advantage into the break, 43-30.

BSC shot 52.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while Lindenwood connected on 31 percent of its shots.

Abernathy spoke of the Lady Blues’ fast start.

“We were determined that we were going to shut them down from the jump,” Abernathy said. “We weren’t going to start off slow like we usually do. We were going to go out there, work hard and get the win.”

The Lady Blues express continued to roll early in the second half as the lead went to 20 points at 50-30. Then the Lions charged back again, slowly whittling away the Bluefield State advantage.

Cassie Bluemner’s trey cut State’s lead to 10 midway through the final half but BSC forged back ahead by 16. Lindenwood made its final charge in the last two minutes.

Kassidy Gengenbacher’s layup brought the Lions to within 10 with 1:50 to play and in the last minute Lindenwood was forced to foul. Johnson’s three with a minute left made it a seven point game and Lindenwood got as close as six. But Shae Mebane and Jefferys each stepped to the line on two occasions and made charity tosses to prevent the visitors from clawing any closer and State emerged with the win.

Oliver shared what he told his team when he called time out late in the game with the Lady Blues ahead.

“I told them we are up 11 points with a minute to go in the game. The door is there for us to be opened. Don’t try to sneak through, kick the damned door down and let’s go to Connecticut,” Oliver said.

Abernathy led BSC with 28 points, Gravely had 18 and Jefferys 14. Abernathy had a team-high eight rebounds, Mebane pulled down seven and Tasia Nolan came off the bench to snag five.

“I just wanted to win and get up to Connecticut,” Gravely said. “I wanted to do it for Coach O because I’ve been here four years... I wanted to win for him.”

Gengenbacher led Lindenwood and all scorers with 27 points and Johnson tallied 16. Caroline Bourlioux pulled down 17 rebounds.

Bluefield State (14-10), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will next face No. 2 seed West Virginia State, Saturday afternoon. Goldey Beacon and No. 1 seed Caldwell are the other two teams still alive in the tourney.

Oliver added, “This program has been through so much. We’ve got great kids and they rise up to the occasion. These seniors wanted to win, the other kids wanted to win for them and we just came out and played hard.”

Prior to the game seniors for the women’s and men’s teams at BSC were recognized. Lady Blues seniors were Jefferys, Gravely, Abernathy, Mebane and Indy Hauser. Big Blues seniors honored were Antoine Bryant, Simeon Denny, Treon Claiborne, Remar Brothers and Staccota Dickerson.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com