By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Heading into a new calendar year, the Bluefield State College Lady Blues are on a roll.
The team’s last outing, against NCAA Division I North Carolina Central, was a Lady Blues victory, believed to be the school’s first ever against a Division I opponent.
“I think it was a monumental win for our program,” said Lady Blues head coach J.J. Oliver. “To my recollection it’s the first time our institution has beaten a Division I program in any sport. It’s huge for our program and it’s also good for our kids this year. We’ve been battling all year and for them to pull off a feat like that is exceptional.”
Battling may be an understatement when describing the Lady Blues this season. Playing its first year as an independent without a conference schedule, the Lady Blues had an extraordinary number of road games and to make matters worse, they were all bunched in the first month of the season.
“We did play a lot of games, but with playing all those games, we lost practice time,” Oliver said. “We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play a game, go back to practice, correct and then prepare for the next team. We had two and three games back-to-back with a week and most of those game were on the road. I think that really hindered our development.”
Bluefield State dropped its first five games of the season, but they have rebounded and won four of their last six including the win at North Carolina Central and two wins in the Herb Sims Classic, one of those against a 5-1 Bowie State University squad.
“That week was kind of a week that we finally got to breathe as a team,” Oliver noted. “It was the end of final exams, we were also coming off our longest road trip, going to Florida. It was a week where we were able to focus on ourselves and our development and that played a big part in our kids’ development and their ability to remain focused on the task at hand.”
Oliver said that individual players have stepped up for the Lady Blues and one of those is senior Kearah Jefferys, who is in her first season with the squad. Jefferys leads the team in scoring, averaging nearly 12 points a game.
“Kearah has definitely developed into the player we think she ought to be,” Oliver commented. “She is finding her comfort zone in our offense. That took a little time to develop.”
Oliver said the play of Ashley Reid at the point has allowed Jefferys to move to her natural position, the two, or shooting guard. The coach also talked of the play of Bluefield High graduate Shay Gravely and Tasia Nolan, both seniors.
“I think Shay Gravely and Tasia Nolan are definitely two of our returning players who have stepped up and really taken on the extra task of being defensive leaders as well s stepping up offensively,” Oliver said. “We’ve been able to put Gravely on the most difficult guard for every team and she has really done a good job defensively on them. Tasia has always been our vocal leader defensively. She’s a kid who has been able to set the tone for us defensively.”
Another newcomer who has impressed Oliver is Hope Smith. A 6’4 junior from Pasadena, Calif., Smith’s presence and play is key for the Lady Blues.
“Hope is definitely coming into her own and is a very positive aspect and is becoming the player we expected. She is also becoming a focal point of what we do,” Oliver said. “We run a lot of stuff off of Hope in the post right now and because she is able to knock down some shots, she is able to draw attention away from our guards which frees them up for shots.”
Two guards freed up are Andrea “Indy” Hauser and Jenaya Abernathy. Coming off the bench Hauser leads the team with 14 three-point baskets and Abernathy is also key off the bench for BSC.
“She (Hauser) has knocked down some big shots for us and has found her rhythm shooting-wise,” Oliver said. “Jenaya is a change of pace guard for us. She’s really athletic and has brought a lot of energy to it offensively.”
Oliver believes the biggest challenge the team faces in the new year is maintaining its focus and entering each game with the necessary effort and energy.
“We’ve got the majority of our season down, but I think the most important part of the second half is with the games we play, we have time to prepare for the teams we’re going to meet,” Oliver said. “I think that makes a major difference in what we are able to show and what we are able to represent on the floor. Our ability to improve on last year’s record is still alive and that’s one of the major goals we had coming into this year.”
The Lady Blues return to the court Thursday evening, hosting Ohio Valley at 5:30 at Ned Shott Gymnasium.
— Contact Bob Redd at