By JONATHAN GREENE for the Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
With the calendar turning to February, the Concord Lady Lions were hoping to put a tough January behind them.
It was a back-and-forth affair, but Concord was able to pull away from West Virginia Wesleyan down the stretch for a 77-66 victory Monday night at the Carter Center.
“We’ve struggled this year at times, but we beat a very good Wesleyan team,” Concord Lady Lions head coach Kenny Osborne said. “That’s a team that beat Fairmont State by 20 on Saturday. It was great to beat them.
“I thought we were ready to play. I keep telling our kids, if we get all 11 who dress on the same page, we can play with a lot of teams. We can win a lot of games. We were ready tonight.”
Concord (6-14, 5-9 WVIAC) led 34-33 at the break and never trailed in the second half despite allowing the Bobcats (7-11, 6-9) to tie the game at 46. The Lady Lions shot 47.4 percent from the floor and held Wesleyan to 39.7 percent. They forced 13 turnovers — nine coming in the first half.
“We just didn’t play the way we’re supposed to play,” Wesleyan head coach Jacqueline DeVane said. “We didn’t play our defense like we usually play. We didn’t rebound like we wanted it. That’s what happens. We got in foul trouble, didn’t play smart defensively and that was the game right there.”
Concord opened up a quick 4-0 lead after a spin and score by Amanda Smith and a bank-in from Jacqueline Kestner.
The Lady Bobcats rallied with a free throw from Brittany Maxey and a Danesha Richardson putback and free throw. A three by Kerry Conroy made it 7-4 in favor of Wesleyan.
The teams would exchange leads over the next few minutes before Concord regained the lead on lay-in from Sammi Webster following several turnovers by the Bobcats.
The Lady Lions held their biggest lead of the first half, 26-20, following a three by Kestner with 8:12 left.
“It was very frustrating especially when we couldn’t come down and play defense,” DeVane said of nine first-half turnovers. “We’ve had games where we’ve had a lot of turnovers, but we were able to come down and get stops to make up for it. We weren’t able to do that today.”
The Bobcats went on a 9-2 run to regain the lead, but the Lady Lions followed suit with a 6-0 run to help take the lead into the locker room.
Concord opened up the second half much like the first thanks to two straight scores from Webster on lay-ins.
“We put a play in at halftime and they were ready, because they executed it perfectly coming out,” Osborne said. “Sammi Webster scored on a lay-up. We ran it again, scored. The third time, if we take one more dribble, we score. I thought we were ready to play. We’ve got a nine-game season left and we’re 1-0.”
The lead stayed close as Wesleyan wouldn’t go away quietly.
Maxey scored 16 of her 22 points in the final 20 minutes and Richardson grabbed seven boards and added four more points to reach her final total of 13.
“Even though they were playing with four fouls, they still were playing hard,” DeVane said. “They were still playing defense and boxing out and getting rebounds. But, we needed that whole team effort. Not one or two people.”
Concord kept coming at the Bobcats and eventually started to wear them down.
Back-to-back threes from Rachel Atrip and Leslie Mack made it a six-point advantage midway through the period.
After one last rally by Wesleyan, the Lady Lions went on a 9-4 run thanks to another three by Mack and several jumpers from Smith.
“We made a couple changes defensively,” Osborne said. “We wanted to trap in the post and we got a couple turnovers off that. We finally got some defensive rebounds and then executed on the offensive end.”
Six points was all the closer the Bobcats would get down the stretch as Stephanie Wagner connected on three of four free-throw attempts and added two straight drives to put the game away.
Wagner finished with 13 points, seven boards and four assists. Mack had a team-high 18 points while Smith and Kestner each finished with 12 points. Atrip and Webster each added eight.
“I thought our starters played well,” Osborne said. “But our bench, stepped up when we got in a foul trouble. If you look at the stat sheet, Leslie Mack had 18. That’s the best shooting game she’s had. That’s the best defensive game she’s had. That’s the best all-around game she’s played.
“One unsung hero is Allison Mullins. Sammi Webster was in foul trouble and we put Allison in and she knocks down a couple balls. She gets a rebound or two and she did a nice job for us.”
Osborne continued, “That was a total team effort. When you’re kind of undermanned as we are, if you want to win games, it’s got to be a total team effort.”
Maxey’s 21 points were a game-high and paced Wesleyan. Richardson finished with a double-double scoring 13 points and grabbing 15 boards. Brittany Williams chipped in with 10 points.
Concord returns to action tonight at home against Alderson-Broaddus in a makeup game from an earlier postponement. The two teams played in November with the Battlers taking a 73-68 win. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m.
“We’ve got to come ready to play,” Osborne said. “We’ve got to be focused and we’ve got top play for 40 minutes. If we do that, I’ll take our chances against anybody.”