By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Bluefield State Lady Blues and Seton Hill Lady Griffins entered Saturday’s game at Ned Shott Gymnasium tied for fourth place in the WVIAC.
After 40 minutes of action the Lady Blues’ three-game winning streak was history and the Lady Griffins held sole possession of fourth place after defeating Bluefield State 82-71.
“Seton Hill came out and played with much more energy than we did at the beginning of the game,” said BSC head coach J.J. Oliver. “For some reason we were sluggish and didn’t play defensively like we needed to play.”
A foul-fest early, the Lady Blues were whistled for five fouls in the game’s first six minutes. In that same time Seton Hill opened a seven point lead, 14-7.
Midway through the opening half the Lady Griffins began to pull away as an invisible lid covered the Lady Blues’ basket. Layups, mid-range jumpers, threes, none would fall for Bluefield State as Seton Hill went on a 22-7 run and led 43-19 with 3:06 to play before halftime.
Bluefield State shot a paltry 20 percent in the opening half, while Seton Hill made 46 percent of its shots and took a 45-21 lead into the break.
In the second half Bluefield State slowly whittled away at the Seton Hill lead. Five minutes into the half State had cut four points off the advantage. Eight minutes in the lead was down to 16. Charity Harris’ basket with 11:12 to play in the game pulled the Lady Blues to within 13 and a basket by Shay Gravely with just under nine minutes left brought Bluefield State to within 11.
The Lady Blues continued to draw closer in the physical game filled with free throws. A player from each team had to change jerseys during the game due to blood on their uniforms.
A three by Harris from the top of the key with 1:29 to play pulled Bluefield State to within single digits of the lead at 76-68.
Forced to foul, Seton Hill extended its lead from the charity stripe in the game’s final minutes to get the win.
“First and foremost we’ve got to play better defense, play with more energy at the top of the game,” Oliver said. “We came back in the second half and we out-scored them by 13 points, we scored 50 points.
“Offensively we didn’t change anything at halftime. We weren’t executing in the first half. We were taking shots not within our offense.
“In the second half we came out executing, were able to score the basketball and we stepped up the defense a little bit.
“The defense still wasn’t what it should have been. We won the second half by 13, they won the first half by 24.”
A total of 45 fouls were called in the game, 30 on Bluefield State, 15 on Seton Hill. Seton Hill shot 48 free throws, 29 were good, while BSC was 14-of-21 from the line.
Katie Gattuso led Seton Hill with 24 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. She was 12-of-21 from the free throw line. Paige Alviani scored 19 and made three, three-point buckets while dishing out five assists.
“Gattuso really did a job on us,” Oliver said. “We somehow let a team shoot 50 free throws. I’m not quite sure what to say about that, but we’ve had a couple of games when we played top teams in the conference where free throw discrepancy has been tremendously different. I don’t see how other teams are able to shoot 40, 50 free throws and we not do that.”
Clare Berenato scored 11 as did Kelly Brennan.
Harris led Bluefield State with 19 points, four assists three steals and four rebounds. Tasia Nolan came off the bench to score 12, grab eight rebounds, block two shots and dish out an assist and make a steal.
Bluefield State dropped to 8-4 overall and 6-3 in WVIAC games while Seton Hill improved to 10-5 in all games and 7-2 in conference play.
The Lady Blues return to the court Monday night at West Virginia Wesleyan. They return home to play Wheeling Jesuit on Thursday.