By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
When Bethany Evans made her first shot of the night, Bland County girls coach Jason Lambert had a feeling that would be the first of many.
Evans scored seven of her nine points in the deciding third quarter that included a 13-0 run, and Graham hammered the Bears for a 54-27 Mountain Empire District victory on Friday night at Graham Middle School.
“(Evans) hurt us in the third quarter,” Lambert said. “I told my assistant, the first play of the game, she turns around and makes a nice jump shot and I said, ‘She is about ready to turn it on tonight.’”
Bland County (3-16, 1-7) actually led 10-9 at the break, but the G-Girls outscored the Bears 45-17 in the second half to pull away from the win.
"A very slow start, I was very disappointed," Graham girls coach Tracy Raban said. "It was a big win, I am glad we came back and got it. At this point of the season you have got to be ready to go from the get-go."
Emaleigh Gallinger led Graham with 15 points, including 10 in the second half, as the G-Girls forced 18 turnovers after the break.
“We had too many turnovers in that third quarter,” Lambert said. “Give Graham credit, I told my girls they are going to come out here in the third quarter and you have got to be ready to battle because Tracy is going to turn it up a notch and they did.
“I know in the first half they struggled and we are going to struggle shooting the ball, that is just part of it.”
Evans put Graham up 11-10 on a bank shot, but Amber Eaton drove to the hoop to put the Bears up for the final time at 12-11. Ashley Moretto followed that up with a drive to the basket and a free throw to spark the G-Girls on a 13-0 run.
Evans had seven points in the third, including a pair of baskets on putbacks following missed Graham shots.
"As a sophomore that is always a positive when you see that," Raban said. "I know she can do it, that is why she is in that starting position. She just started clicking for us and getting us offensive boards and gave us any kind of lift we could get."
Bland County led 7-4 after one quarter, and were still on top at the break. The problem for the Bears all season has been scoring points, and that proved to be the issue once again.
Eaton scored 10 points for Bland County, while no one else on her team had more than three.
“The third quarter we just had too many turnovers,” Lambert said. “I knew they were coming, we still missed a lot of shots and there is nothing you can do. When you can’t shoot and you can’t score, you are going to struggle, I don’t care who you are.”
The combination of Evans (7), Gallinger (6) and Moretto (5) tallied 18 of the G-Girls' 22 points third period points to build the lead to 31-17 going into the final period. Meanwhile, Graham’s fullcourt pressure defense forced seven turnovers in that quarter alone.
"We tried it from the beginning, but we were really flat," Raban said. "There was no intensity, no enthusiasm, whatever happened at halftime or whatever they brought, they brought it in the second half, that is what I expected from the get-go."
Erin Wilson added eight points for Graham, while Moretto tossed in seven.
"I am not taking anything from Bland, but if we had played the number one team in the district, we are blown out from the get-go," Raban said. "You are hoping as a coach you can come out and play four quarters at this point of the season.
"I don't know if it is all the snow days and we got off to a slow start, but it clicked in the second half. I am just glad we could come out and get the win tonight."
Graham’s lead grew to as much as 30 in the second half before Erin Brinkley canned a halfcourt shot at the final buzzer to provide something for Lambert to smile about.
“On a good note, the Brinkley girl hitting that half court shot,” Lambert said, whose Lady Bears will host Galax on Wednesday and visit Fort Chiswell on Friday. “She is an Pocy girl, she is from Pocahontas so I said that was the only good thing tonight, but I can take that.
“It has been a long year, but you have those sometimes.”
Graham (10-8, 4-3) plays three games next week, beginning on Monday at Narrows. The G-Girls will host Fort Chiswell on Wednesday and finish up the regular season on Friday at Grayson County.
"It is a very big week, we go to Narrows and then we have Fort Chiswell and Grayson, and both could be big wins for us going into the tournament," Raban said. "Maybe we can get off on the right track and get a good start on Monday."
—Contact Brian Woodson
At Graham Middle School
BLAND COUNTY (3-16, 1-7)
Julia Davis 1 0-0 3, Amber Eaton 4 1-3 10, Danielle Russo 0 2-6 2, Tara Holbrook 1 0-2 2, Alyssa Harris 1 1-2 3, Tori Smith 0 0-0 0, Kristin Dillow 1 0-0 2, Erin Brinkley 1 0-0 3, Samantha Garland 1 0-0 2, Lindsey Faulkner 0 0-0 0, Lindsey Dean 0 0-0 0, Erica Muncy 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 4-13 27.
GRAHAM (10-8, 4-3)
Karly Morgan 2 0-0 4, Emaleigh Gallinger 5 5-7 15, Liz Workman 2 0-0 4, Brittany Evans 4 1-4 9, Ashley Moretto 3 1-1 7, Erin Wilson 3 2-2 8, Alysia Leung 1 0-0 2, Taylor Williams 0 3-4 3, Casey Spencer 0 0-0 0, Ashley Rasnake 0 0-0 0, Bailee Poe 1 0-4 2. Totals 21 12-22 54.
Bland County…..................…….7 3 7 10 — 27
Graham………......................….4 5 22 23 — 54
3-point goals: BC 3 (Davis 1, Brinkley 1, Eaton 1); GR 0. Total fouls: BC 17; GR 11. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none. JV - Graham won.