Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 11, 2013

No longer singing the Blues

Bluefield State women finally tasting success

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The Bluefield State College Lady Blues have already won as many games this season as they did last year.

Heading into Thursday night’s game against the University of Charleston, the Lady Blues sported a 7-3 overall record. In 2011-12 the BSC women won seven games the entire season.

Part of the reason for the success of the Lady Blues hoops team is the play of two of their guards, the two leading scorers on the team, Charlene Diggs and Charity Harris.

Harris is playing her first season at Bluefield State after previously attending Denmark Tech in South Carolina. Diggs, a senior from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley, is playing her fourth season for the Lady Blues.

Diggs talked about how she has seen the landscape change during her time on campus.

“The first year Coach (J.J.) Oliver came in he didn’t have much time to recruit, then the second year he recruited more and we still had a rough start with the game and only finished with seven wins,” Diggs noted. “This happens to be his third year and my senior year, finally. He’s recruited some good players and kept a lot of players too. We’re not losing players with grades, or quitting.”

One of those recruits is Harris, a 5-foot-5 junior from Vineland, N.J., who has taken over the point guard position and is the cog that seems to make the engine called the Lady Blues, go. She is averaging 14 points a game, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and is first in the WVIAC in three point shooting percentage, sinking 52 percent of her shots from behind the arc.

Diggs is scoring 15 points a game and is third in the league in three point shooting percentage, making 48 percent of her long-distance shots. Last season Diggs passed the 1,000 career point mark at Bluefield State.

Both Harris and Diggs prefer the up-tempo style the Lady Blues play.

“Yeah, I like to speed it up,” Harris said. “When teams try to press us, we have to be patient and adjust and play our game instead of theirs. We try to stay pretty cool on the court. When I know Charlene is hot, I try to find her and get her, her shot, or for anybody else like Indy (Hauser) and Tori (Patrick), they like to shoot the three, so I try to find them too.”

Diggs sees different attitudes and relationships from her other years on the team.

“The team chemistry now is very good,” Diggs said. “We have a good chemistry on the court. We find each other in spots and we know each others spots on the court, so it’s easy for Charity to pick her spot because she knows we’re going to be in those spots.”

The early-season success of the team has brought some other benefits to the Lady Blues’ team.

“Right now our confidence on the court is outrageous,” Diggs said. “We’re like, ‘We can’t be stopped right now.’ We play hard and first we try to set a tempo defensively and our offense feeds off our defense.

“We play very hard on defense so our offense will be better. We feel like if we play good defense, no one can stop us offensively.”

Now in his third season at the helm, Oliver is enjoying the new-found success, but realizes there is still much work to be done.

“We take every game as a single event and the preparation for each game is important for that game, that game only, and then we move onto the next game,” Oliver said. “It’s good when we look at our record and see that we’ve had more successes than disappointments.”

 Oliver believes that the key to winning basketball games is taking advantage of your opportunities, limiting mistakes, and controlling the game.

“Our goal is to push the tempo offensively and to play pressure defense for 40 minutes a game,” Oliver said. “Even when we go to our zone set, it’s not a zone that we sit back in, it’s a zone that puts pressure on the basketball and is designed to create turnovers.

“Coming into the year I told this team that in order for us to be successful in the system that I play, we’ve got to be statistically successful in different areas,” he added. “One of the most important is defensive field goal percentage. If you look at the stats, I think we’re No. 1 in the league and top 25 in the country.”

In addition to being No. 1 in the WVIAC in defensive field goal percentage, allowing opponents to make just 34 percent of their shots, the Lady Blues are also first in three point defense (24 percent) and fifth in scoring defense, allowing 69 points a game.

When asked what their most fulfilling moment has been at BSC, both ladies answered simultaneously, “Winning.” They then expanded.

Harris commented, “I don’t know what more to say, I like to win. I don’t like to lose, so we do everything we can to win.”

Diggs added, “It’s been a rough time here at Bluefield State, but I am glad I stayed over the past four years and am able to be a part of this program and part of the history that Bluefield State is making. Winning is a great thing right now, the best thing.”

Oliver said, “We knew when we took on the responsibility of building this program that it was a monumental task and we believe that our patience, and perseverance in building this program would outweigh any obstacles that we would come across. At this point we’re almost half of the year and we have matched our win total from last year. We’re still hungry and we’re looking for more.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com