By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Concord University Mountain Lions did not have to look far for motivation when they met their cross-county rivals, Bluefield State, on Saturday evening.
They met the moment at the Carter Center, beating the Big Blues 82-71 to end the regular season with a victory – and lock up eighth place in the West Virginia Conference, securing a first-round home playoff game this Tuesday.
“It's always good to finish on a win,” said Concord head coach Kent McBride. “I wouldn't necessarily say we played great today, but it's kind of hard, with that many free throws (65) shot in the game, to get any rhythm. Both teams were that way. But it was a rivalry game, so we'll take it.”
It was certainly a hot-and-cold game. Though Concord made 56.9 percent of its field goal attempts overall, the two squads endured a four-minute stretch in the first half in which neither team scored.
Concord (16-10, 12-10 WVIAC) broke the drought and took the lead for good 13-11 on a driving layup by Jordan Davis, but the home squad did not push its lead to double digits until early in the second half, when Davis executed a shake-and-bake move and went to the rim to create a 47-36 score.
Bluefield State (4-22, 4-18) head coach Jamaal Jackson said, “We couldn't score on their zone. But it wasn't there, offensively where they hurt us. We shot … 21 percent from threes, that's what really hurt us.”
“Plus, they were beating us back in transition. We were getting lost on the defensive end. The biggest thing was, we couldn't stay in front of their guards. I used all my guards, and none of them could stay in front of their guards.”
McBride said, “We had some big stops. We made some big steals, and every time we did, we pushed it out and we were getting either easy baskets or we were fouled. That's really what got us going. And we got them into a little bit of foul trouble.”
“We're a defense-to-offense team, and that's what did it.”
On Senior Day, senior Damien Tunstalle had 17 points on a 7-for-9 day from the field, plus five rebounds, one of Concord's nine steals, and his team's only shot block. Tunstalle is now five points away from 1,000 in his collegiate career.
“Everybody looks at this game as Mercer County rivals,” Tunstalle said, “so no matter what the records are, they always come in hyped for this game. It's like a championship game here, sometimes. We had a good crowd come here … . I just enjoy it.”
Another senior, Gentry Shrewsbury, said about Bluefield State, “They're a good team. They're a streaky team, they're really athletic. We knew we had to keep running, and running, and running, and we'd end up pulling it out.”
McBride started his three seniors, Tunstalle, Shrewsbury and Eric Bailey, to the delight of the home crowd.
“Those guys are great,” he said of his senior trio. “Those guys give 100 percent effort all the time. They don't know anything else. And that's a testament to their families, that's a testament to the coaches they've had leading up to (college).”
Shrewsbury said, “It's crazy how fast it went. I hate that it's ending, but I wouldn't want to do it with any other group of guys. This team has really bonded together. You can ask anybody.”
As the game wore on, several players hit the floor hard after taking fouls as they were going up for shots.
Freshman Cam Shannon had to be helped from the floor when he landed on his back with 1:50 left in the first half. He was on crutches after the game.
Guard Mike Boyd injured his face when he struck the floor after making a layup for a 75-60 lead in the second half. He stayed in the contest and scored Concord's final points on a drive to the hoop, creating an 82-64 advantage.
Thomas Brown of CU tied Tunstalle for top scoring honors in the game with 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the floor. Davis had 11 points and nine rebounds; Boyd had 16 points and four assists.
For the Big Blues, Treon Claiborne had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Detterance Norwood and Vincent Rogers each provided 12 points. Antoine Bryant had 10 points and three assists. Thirteen players got on the court for BSC, seven of whom had 17 or more minutes of playing time.
Both teams now move on to WVIAC tournament play at campus sites around the league. Concord will host Pitt-Johnstown (14-12) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday; Bluefield State travels to third-seeded Alderson-Broaddus (18-8) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Jackson said, “We'll be ready. I don't think that'll be a problem.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org