Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

January 9, 2014

A bland contest

Grayson County rolls past Lady Bears 53-33

BLAND, Va. — Grayson County, like every girls team in the Mountain Empire District, would like to be where Bland County was not all that long ago when the Bears made three straight trips to the Division 1 state tournament, including a state finals appearance in 2009.

That from the same school that lost 124 straight games from 1991-97.

The Blue Devils would love to follow that pattern. Grayson County has had its own tough times.

“That would be great,” Grayson County head coach Tiny Funk said. “These kids, especially, they have worked pretty hard to change things. At one time we were 1-57 as a team, that was my first three years I had them when these kids were eighth graders.

“They came in as ninth graders and we have had parts that come in and help.”

It showed on Wednesday night at Bland High School, as the Blue Devils improved to 6-4 on the season with a 53-33 Mountain Empire District win over the Bears.

“We keep practicing every day,” Funk said, “trying to get better every day.”

Meredith Frost froze the Bears with 21 points, including a pair of 3s, while Camryn McGrady did the damage inside, scoring 11 points for the Blue Devils. Taylor Cannaday added 10, also making two 3s.

“They work hard,” Funk said. “They went through it as freshmen and got beat up a little bit and they have learned a little bit every year.”

No one has been more impressed with the turnaround in Independence than Bland County head coach Jason Lambert.

“This group when you see them step out on the court, you are thinking ‘I can compete with them’, but they don’t make mistakes,” Lambert said. “They move the ball well and they are patient.

“I think they are maybe the best team in the district because of that. They kind of follow their coach, he is patient and they do a great job.”

Bland County, which was led by Lambert’s freshman daughter, Malee, with nine points — all on 3s — led 10-5 after the opening quarter, with Amber Eaton scoring five of her eight points in the first eight minutes.

Meanwhile, Grayson County (6-4, 2-0) was 2 for 13 in that period, but were 15 for 30 over the next two quarters.

“Some of that slow start was due to Bland,” Funk said. “Coach (Lambert) does a good job down here, a real good job. His kids play hard, you have got to give a little bit of credit to them, it is not just all us.”

While the Bears struggled to score as halftime approached, Frost scored eight second quarter points, including five during an 11-0 run, as the Blue Devils built a 20-15 lead at the break.

It was Frost’s 3 with 7:01 to go in the second quarter that put Grayson County up to stay. Bland County turned it over 20 times in the game and six times in that period.

“The big thing now is we are competing better,” Lambert said. “We just go stretches where we just cannot score, it will be two or three minutes.

“We are getting better, our defense in the first half tonight I thought we played pretty well. We had a couple of breakdowns...Instead of being down by 5, we could have tied easily.”

Bland County (2-10, 0-2) was able to cut a 10-point third period deficit to 29-22 on a 3 by Lambert with 3:50 on the clock, but Cannaday, who had 10 third quarter points, and McGrady, who had six, helped the Blue Devils build a 41-26 advantage with eight minutes to go.  

“We got down by seven, I think we go to the free throw line and miss two free throws, the next thing you know they hit a 3 and they are up by 10,” Lambert said. “The next thing you come down court and miss a shot or two and they come up and hit another 3 and you are down by 15.”

Frost added six points in the final period as the Blue Devils built its biggest lead of 20 at the final buzzer.

Bland County also received six points from Danielle Russo and Kristen Dillow, who had two 3s. The Bears had 11 field goals, six of which were from long range.

“I am proud of this group  because they keep improving, every day it seems like we are getting better...,” Lambert said. “We are getting better, we are competing and that is all you can ask for.”

With no MED tournament on tap this season, all eyes in Bland are looking toward the Conference 45 tournament, in which two teams will move into regional play. Don’t count out the Bears, or anyone else.

“Right now we kind of have Covington above everybody in our conference and I think everybody else is about on the same playing field,” said Lambert, whose Bears travel Friday to Graham. “You get in that and anything can happen.

“I keep telling my kids let’s just keep getting better every day and go from there and see what happens.”

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