By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Brittany Allen just keeps adding to her record.
It’s up to 1,586 points and counting for the talented Richlands senior, who is now the all-time leading scorer in school history on the basketball court.
Breaking the mark of 1,558 held by Sheryl Absher was not on Allen’s mind when she first took the floor as a freshman for the Lady Blues four years ago.
“Not really,” Allen said. “I tried to take one day at a time and just work hard on my game on that particular day. I have worked hard and it really has paid off so I am really blessed.”*
It took nearly all 32 minutes for that final shot to go down, but what mattered most to Allen was the 57-50 win over archrival Tazewell.
“It was pretty overwhelming, but most important, I kind of wanted to get it out of the way so I could focus more on the game,” Allen said. “We won and our team did great so I am really proud of them.”
The feeling, is no doubt, mutual.
Allen, who scored 35 and 33 points in a pair of wins last season, is the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week, one of the few athletes to win the award in all four years of high school.
“I am really blessed to be the player of the week,” said Allen, with her ever-present big smile. “I was waiting on it. I was like ‘come on’ so it is really great and special to me.”
Even more special was a free throw that Allen made late in Tuesday’s win over Tazewell, part of the 17 points needed for the Lady Blues (7-4) to extend a win streak that has now reached five in a row.
“There was a couple of seconds left in the whole game so I didn’t even know if I was going to get it honestly,” said Allen, whose Blues were led by another freshman, Olivia Harmon, with 20 points against the Bulldogs. “I am just really glad that we won against Tazewell.
“It is a big rivalry game. (My teammates) really stepped it up because they pretty much shut me down (Tuesday) night, they were double-teaming me. They stepped up and hit a lot of good shots and I am just glad we won really.”
Allen had heard all about the exploits of Absher, and was finally able to put a voice with the name when Absher called Allen with a congratulatory message after the game.
“It was a surprise really, they put it over the intercom,” Allen said. “I was really glad I got to finally hear a voice, she lives up in Iowa so it was really neat.”
It was a worthy moment for an athlete who has been a key part in taking a program that won six games in three years, including an 0-23 mark in 2009, and led them to the Division 3 state tournament two years in a row.
“It has been a great change, they didn’t hardly win any games in my eighth grade year,” Allen said. “It has been a great change, I am glad that some of the other sports are starting to come along except for just football all the time so it is a great thing.”
Allen, who will play Division I college basketball next season at Radford, has played the sports for much of her life, starting as a very small youngster on the AAU youth circuit with current Richlands coach Dennis Palmer as her coach.
“He has coached me since about fifth grade on honestly, we played a little AAU when I tiny,” Allen said. “He has been a huge part of my life.
“I love him on and off the court, even though we butt heads sometimes he is always there for me and I am always there for him so he is a great coach and I am really lucky to have him.”
Allen had her best week of the season to date in last week’s wins over Virginia High, which included 35 points, making 13-of-15 from the free throw line, and another 33 in a 67-44 victory over Twin Valley.
“Definitely,” said Allen, when asked if it was her best week of the season. “I got a lot of free throws that game so that always works in my favor. Last night (against Tazewell) I didn’t hit as many, but my team gets me the ball really good, I am really proud of them.”
Richlands lost several talented contributors off last year’s team that made the Division 3 state semifinals for a second straight season. The goal is to get back, with Allen leading the way as one of three seniors on the Lady Blues, a squad that is small in numbers and experience.
“We are really young, but the more we play together the more it will start to click because if you don’t play together you don’t know how we are going to cut or where we are going to be out on the floor,” said Allen, who tallied 26 points in a win over Bluefield on Wednesday. “I think we are getting a lot better and I am really proud of them for working hard and doing a great job right now.”
Being one of the better players in the region, Allen’s contributions are not a surprise. Her opponents focus their efforts on her, and try to force someone else to beat them. Sometimes it works, most of the time it does not.
“Sometimes I do get frustrated, but I just have to sit back and realize this is my last year so I am going to enjoy every minute of it,” said Allen, whose Blues will visit Marion on Monday. “If things aren’t falling my way, they will step up and hopefully we will go out and get the win that night.”
All that attention will pay off for Allen at the next level when she will have to work even harder for her shots.
“I have learned to get open by myself now so that is fine,” Allen said. “That will only help me at the college level because they are going to be a lot better in college. If I can get (shots) off with two people on me, I will probably be able to get off with one person on me.”
What awaits Allen at Radford is one of the better programs in the Big South Conference, which is often dominated by Liberty. Allen can’t wait to get there and help the Highlanders like she has the Lady Blues.
“I am so excited, I definitely want to make the most of my senior year, but as soon as that is over I am going to be working hard to hopefully get some playing time next year,” Allen said. “I will be going to summer school at the beginning of July for a whole month. That will be a big change, but I am really looking forward to it, I am ready for the next step in my life.”
That step can wait for now. Allen is focused now on finishing off her senior season in the best way possible.
“Play hard, hopefully get a bunch of wins and make it as far as we are going to make it,” Allen said. “It is in God’s hands, I know He will take care of us so if we just play hard I think good things will come out of it.”
Could that mean another trip to the state tournament?
“Maybe, I try not to jinx us,” said Allen, with a laugh. “I just want us to take one game at a time and just work hard and hopefully we will get back there.”
Years of basketball have led Allen to the forefront of Richlands basketball. It has taken lots of dedication and sacrifice to reach her level of excellence, but Allen has rarely ever wondered why she was doing it.
“Sometimes, but it is worth it,” Allen said. “If I could go back all over again I really would because I enjoy the game. I really love it, when things like this happen you realize just how lucky I am to just even be here.
“It is great I am able to play the game so I am really blessed.”
—Contact Brian Woodson