BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Twice, Alex Sword passed up the shot. The third time the freshman took a 3 from the right baseline.
Nothing but net.
Brittany Allen scored 25 points, and the freshman duo of Sword and Olivia Harmon made a couple of key plays in the final minute, leading Richlands to a thrilling 53-46 win over Graham on Monday night at Graham High School.
Richlands (13-4), which defeated Graham earlier this season 61-53, had taken a 46-42 lead before the G-Girls tied the score at 46 with 1:26 left to play.
The plan for Graham was not to allow Allen to beat them when it counted most. Allen scored 25 points, but had to work for all of them, making 8-of-9 from the free throw line, and tallied nine points in the fourth period, and 13 after the break. Allen went deep, hitting a trio of 3s for the Blues.
“We made a little adjustment putting (Lexi) Kiser on her and having one if not two people at all times on the help side,” Graham head coach Tracy Raban said. “I felt like we executed it well and she had to work for every shot.
“I couldn’t ask for a better effort, it is disappointing to lose that one.”
Richlands worked the ball around after a Graham timeout, with Sword passing up a pair of open shot opportunities.
“Two passes before it came around I was getting ready to tell (Dejah) Carter to step out and I didn’t,” Raban said. “In the game plan I told them we are going to make somebody else step up and knock it down other than Allen, and she made the shot.”
The third time was the charm, as Sword less loose with a 3 to put the Lady Blues up for good at 49-46 with 1:26 on the clock. That was followed by a steal on the inbounds pass by Harmon, who followed by making two free throws, as Richlands went on a 7-1 run to end the game.
“We kind of went spread there and maybe the big girl would have to come out and play,” Richlands head coach Dennis Palmer said. “(Sword) can shoot the ball, Olivia came through, she had a tough night shooting the ball, but she made a couple of big plays at the end.
“Brittany did her usual game and I thought we played pretty good defense. We didn’t box out very well, Graham plays hard, they did a good job tonight.”
Especially the ‘big’ girl. Carter, a 6-foot-2 freshman gave a glimpse of a bright future for the G-Girls, scoring 19 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and blocking four shots, while controlling the game on defense for much of the game.
“She must have blocked 10 shots tonight,” Palmer said. “It seems like every time we drove in there she was blocking our shots.”
Carter, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the first half alone, continually altered or blocked shot attempts, while also posting up and taking the ball to the basket against Sarah Compton, who fouled out in the final quarter.
“That is the Dejah I know that can come and play,” Raban said. “We realized we had to get the ball into her and she realized it too. She started posting up determined, ‘I was going determined, no one was stopping me’ and that is the way she played tonight.”
Layups by Casey Spencer and Lexi Kiser had pushed Graham ahead 42-38 with just over five minutes to play, and the Lady Blues followed with their own 8-0 run, led by Allen and Compton, to take that 46-42 lead.
“Give them credit, Graham played hard,” Palmer said. “Coach (Raban) did a great job tonight and I think we came out a little flat and not ready to play.
“They they played hard, we played hard, in the last three minutes we made some plays to win the game.”
Graham answerd that spurt with baskets by Ashley Rasnake and two free throws by Emaleigh Gallinger to tie the score, setting up the heroics of the Lady Blues in the final 1:26 of the game.
“There were a couple of possessions offensively we didn’t execute like we needed to do,” Raban said. “We had some critical turnovers, but they just kept fighting. It is a tough one to lose, but the kids fought hard.”
Montana Hearl added 11 points, including a pair of free throws in the final seconds for the Lady Blues, who — like Graham — had as many as three freshmen on the floor together during the game.
“She had three freshmen in there a lot and we had three freshmen in there for quite a bit,” said Palmer, whose Lady Blues will host Abingdon tonight. “It was just a hard fought game, we just made two or three more plays at the end of the game.”
Jia Coppola, another freshman, had nine points for Graham before fouling out in the final period.
“I told them in there it stinks to lose, but I never questioned your effort the whole game,” said Raban, whose G-Girls visit Fort Chiswell on Wednesday. “You kept fighting, for once I saw some heart and pride and they cared about what they were doing and they never quit.
“I cannot be disappointed in that fact.”
at Graham Middle School
Montana Hearl 4 3-5 11, Nadia Ashiq 1 0-0 2, Brittany Allen 7 8-9 25, Olivia Harmon 0 2-2 2, Sarah Compton 3 2-3 8, Lani Rhinehart 1 0-0 2, Alex Sword 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 15-19 53.
Lexi Kiser 2 1-2 5, Emaleigh Gallinger 0 5-8 5, Bethany Evans 2 0-0 4, Jia Coppola 4 1-2 9, Dejah Carter 9 1-3 19, Alysia Leung 0 0-0 0, Casey Spencer 1 0-0 2, Ashley Rasnake 1 0-0 2, Bailee Poe 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 8-15 46.
Richlands.........................10 13 9 21 — 53
Graham............................10 15 11 10 — 46
3-point goals: RL 4 (Allen 3, Sword 1); GR 0. Total fouls: 18; GR 23. Fouled out: Coppola, Compton. Technicals: none.