By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
There is basketball still left to play.
The Lady Rams would much rather be heading to postseason play coming off an eight-point loss and not 41.
Bluefield, which lost to Cumberland, Tn. 81-40 way back on Nov. 29, were much better on Senior Day against the NAIA’s 6th-ranked Bulldogs, dropping a 65-57 Mid-South Conference decision in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon at the Dome Gymnasium.
Bluefield (15-13, 9-11), which recognized seniors Celinda Arrington and Ashley White after the game, will play in the MSC tournament next Thursday in Frankfort, Ky. against either Cumberland or Georgetown.
“Georgetown is definitely a better matchup for us obviously, but the fact that they went in there and grinded hard today is good confidence going into the postseason,” Bluefield head coach M.J. Baker said.
White led the Rams with 21 points, while Teqa McNeal added 12 points and Janee Simmons contributed 10 points, six boards and three blocked shots. Arrington, who played in her 115th game in four seasons at Bluefield, dished out four assists.
As has been the case often this season, the Lady Rams were bothered by the size of the Bulldogs, led by 6-foot-3 London Elie, who had nine points and five boards. LaCouya Allen added 10 points and nine rebounds, and Briannica Tye nailed four 3s to finish with 17 points.
Cumberland (26-2, 17-2), which also received nine points and nine boards from Jessica Pace, outrebounded Bluefield 45-34, including 20-10 on the offensive glass.
“Unfortunately we did have size at the beginning of the season,” Baker said. “It was just different circumstances. We don’t have a lot of size, but that is something we already know going into it so we just have to play with more position and more heart and more drive.”
Bluefield took a pair of first half leads on a 3 by Teqa McNeal, and eventually built the margin to 20-15 with 6:10 on the clock That’s when London was the recipient of a pair feeds at the rim, Allen followed with a basket for the final tie at 25-25 and Josette Campbell put the Bulldogs up for good with on offensive putback.
While Cumberland led 29-25, the Lady Rams were in the game, not experiencing what happened in Lebanon, Tn. a few months ago.
“Last time we played them we had a 15-minute drought at their place,” Baker said. “We didn’t score for 15 minutes so anytime that happens you are going to lose bad.”
Bluefield was still within three, at 35-32 on a runner by White with 14:59 on the clock, but the Bulldogs went on a 14-5 run, sparked by eight points in a six-minute stretch by Tye.
Cumberland built the lead to as much as 14 on the second of three 3s by Cowan with 6:40 on the clock, but the Lady Rams never gave up, pulling within six, 61-55, on a 3 by Monique Robson with 1:56 left, but could get any closer.
“This time we came out with a lot more intensity and a little more heart,” Baker said. “Considering that was the number one team in our conference and number (six) in the nation, it is good to have that confidence going into the postseason.”
Bluefield has at least two tournaments left to play in, starting with the MSC tourney later this week, and the Lady Rams will host the National Christian College Athletic Association Mid-East Regional on March 7-8, with the winner advancing to the NCCAA national tourney.
“Yes we do,” said Baker, when asked about the Lady Rams having more basketball to play. “Until March 8th, at least.”
—Contact Brian Woodson