By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tanisha Williams was a bright spot for the Concord University basketball team on Tuesday evening, but a visiting band of Cavaliers lit up the gym.
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise drove away from Athens with a 70-61 win over the Lady Lions. Other than a 2-2 tie, the Cavaliers from Southwest Virginia led the entire game.
Williams made it interesting, though. The 5-foot-7 guard energized the crowd with non-stop big plays, aggressive defense and clutch shooting.
“She played hard for 38 minutes,” said Concord head coach Kenny Osborne. “She gave us 24 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and six assists. She can’t do much more than that. She put us on her back. She carried us as much as she could.”
Williams said, “I was going to try my best, and my teammates, too.”
Concord assistant coach Jamie Cluesman had to help game-plan against two of her cousins who started for UVa-Wise (2-7).
The two sisters, senior Chelsea Cluesman and freshman MaKenzie Cluesman, scored 23 and 13 points respectively.
The Cavaliers also started Charlotte Reasor, a Rural Retreat High School graduate who scored 13 points and had 13 rebounds. Katie Jo Lester, a prep star at Twin Valley High School, came off the bench to contribute 10 points and four assists.
Concord (2-4) was without four players due to injuries — post player Andrea Bertrand, guard Ashley Brown, center Sammi Webster and guard Stephanie Wagner.
The starting five for CU seemed particularly to have trouble early with defense. Chelsea Cluesman took back-door passes and prospered along the baseline, making six of seven shots from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
In the first half, the Lady Lions as a team made only six of 25 field-goal attempts and went 2 for 6 at the free throw line. Their three-point attempts
Neither team scored in the last 1:43 of the half, but a sequence as time was running out illustrated the Lady Lions’ fortunes.
Williams stole the ball near the UVa-Wise foul line and heaved it to teammate Jacqueline Kestner, all alone in the front court. She had to gain control of the ball, and the buzzer sounded an instant before she got off her shot.
The ball went through the hoop. The officials waved it off as no good and the visitors led 26-16 at the break.
The Cavaliers took their largest lead of the game by scoring the first seven points of the second period, forcing a timeout by Osborne, who said his team “got yelled at” at halftime.
Concord’s Amanda Smith scored eight points in a 17-4 run that cut the visitors’ lead to 45-42 with 9:02 left. Lester scored a layup and Reasor buried a trey from the right side to start building another advantage.
With 4:53 left, Williams was called for a charge on a drive and Osborne drew a technical foul for arguing the call. Chelsea Cluesman made one of two technical foul shots for a 57-48 lead.
The Lady Lions had one more run left. Three-pointers by Katy Somerville and Leslie Mack, half a minute apart, again cut CU’s deficit to three points, 64-61, with 1:07 remaining.
Reasor responded with a layup and UVa-Wise went 4 for 4 at the free-throw line after that to wrap up the win.
Osborne said, “We did not play hard the first half; we played hard the second half. That was the difference.”
“If we would ever learn to compete in both halves, we’d have a chance to be a good team. Until we learn to do that, we’re not going to be a very good basketball team.”
He said the injuries to his team “may have a little to do with (the loss), but not a whole lot. We just came out flat ... and the second half, we played well.
“If I knew how to fix it, I would. But we’ll just keep practicing hard, and keep yelling and screaming, and trying to get better.”
Crafting a lineup and a strategy without all his options available is “not fun,” he said, “but you’ve just got to tinker and tinker and tinker — and try to find a way to win a game.”
Williams said, “I’ll pretty much continue to do what we have to do, and try to get my teammates involved ... so we can win some games.”
Smith ended the game with 18 points and seven rebounds. Somerville had four steals and four assists but was 2 for 13 shooting. Williams took 13 of Concord’s 23 foul shots and made 10 of them. Concord had 14 steals in the game.
The Cavaliers won the rebounding statistic 39 to 33. MaKenzie Cluesman had five of her team’s 18 assists.
UVa-Wise head coach Kristin Kunzman said, “Some of our focus was just executing on offense, for ourselves, and then keeping them off the glass. They’ve got size on us, on the inside. Out-rebounding them was one of the things we focused on.”
Kunzman said, “We play hard. I don’t think our record shows that, that we play tough. We’ve been in close games. Seven games, we were close, we were close, we were right there. We were able to finish it out tonight, which feels good.”
The non-conference game was a chance for the two teams to size each other up before both schools enter the proposed Mountain East Conference. That could happen this summer if the conference paperwork is done in time.
Kunzman said, “We scheduled them because we wanted to be able to see where we were at with them in league play.”
“I think it was a great matchup. They play tough, and I think it kind of shows us that we’re in there with these teams, and we can play with them.”
— Contact Tom Bone at