By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Shelia Hopkins started slow, scoring just four points in the opening half of Bluefield’s 86-47 win over Wyoming East on Thursday evening at the spacious Brushfork Armory.
Tony Mallamaci wasn’t worried.
There was another half to play, and play she did.
“She got off to a slow start,” said Mallamaci, Bluefield’s girls basketball coach. “She had a lot of easy looks in the first quarter, but she was missing them, I think she was rushing her shot.
“The second half she kind of got settled down and was squaring herself up and going straight up with it. She had a monster second half.”
Definitely. Hopkins collected 16 points in the second half, including 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and a blocked shot in the third quarter alone.
She added another four points, a rebound and an assist in the final period before heading to the bench satisfied with another Bluefield victory.
“I like to be all-around, I don’t really like to score that much to be honest,” Hopkins said. “ I like to help my whole team along with the game and get a lot of points for everybody.”
They did it last week as well, beating River View 48-25 behind 21 points by Hopkins, and the 5-foot-9 senior tallied 11 in a 52-43 loss to Nicholas County.
That performance was enough to earn Hopkins the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award, a worthy honor for a senior who finally won the award in her final season on the court.
“I didn’t even know until my coach told me in the locker room just now, but I am glad and honored to be player of the week,” Hopkins said. “I will be pushing myself to try to get some more.”
Hopkins played big in the win over River View, much like she did against Wyoming East, helping to force more than 30 turnovers and creating numerous transition scoring opportunities against the Warriors.
“We actually did better in this game to be honest,” said Hopkins, with a smile. “We had a lot of steals (at River View), good defense, we did wonderful with our press, we had a lot of traps.
“They barely got the ball down the court, but they did good, they played good defense. It was good sportsmanship. Both teams went home happy, but it was a good game.”
That was followed by a loss to the Grizzlies last Wednesday, and the Beavers remembered that loss and were prepared to play better eight days later against Wyoming East.
“We just picked up on what we messed up on. We came out in the second half kind of struggling, they rebounded more than us so we had to rebound a lot more tonight,” Hopkins said. “Defensively, we kind of slacked a little bit. We passed a lot too, we had a lot of turnovers, but we stepped it up tonight.”
Hopkins continues to do the same for the Beavers, which brings a smile to Mallamaci because of her ability to produce in so many ways.
“(She brings) rebounding, she is a heck of an inside player, but she is probably our second best 3-point shooter,” Mallamaci said. “She can handle the ball if we need a pressure release.”
The list goes on and on.
“She has matured a lot this year, she has probably matured more from last year to this year than she has the previous three years and that has helped her too,” Mallamaci said. “She is playing more of a basic game.
“Last year she tried some crazy passes and would get out of control a little bit. She still does occasionally, but it is no where near as bad as it was last year.”
Hopkins likes the potential that the Beavers have shown in a 5-3 start, especially the impressive 39-point win over the Warriors, which included building on a 31-25 halftime lead with a 55-22 advantage after the break.
“We are real quick, we have got a lot of speed, we can get up and down the court as fast as we can,” Hopkins said. “The first quarter we were really kind of slow tonight, but the second half we came out as Lady Beavers.
“We came hard and came prepared, good teamwork, we moved quick, feet were quick, we did real good.”
Hopkins expects that type of ‘good’ effort to continue.
“We are good team right here, we are just like sisters, we play hard, we play together, we do everything together,” she said. “We just have fun.”
—Contact Brian Woodson