Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

January 26, 2014

Lady Rams withstand RedStorm

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A big challenge awaited the Bluefield College women’s team on Saturday afternoon.

No problem.

The Lady Rams’ defense held the University of Rio Grande to 22 points under their season average, taking a 75-67 win from the RedStorm at the Dome Gymnasium — while a white storm of snow was swirling outside.

It was a struggle at times, evidenced by five tie scores in each half, but playing fundamentally sound under the boards and reining in the RedStorm’s up-tempo game turned the outcome in the home team’s favor.

Bluefield head coach M.J. Baker said, “They’re a team that really likes to transition, and get their own rebounds, so our big thing was to make sure we got back on defense, and make sure we contested all shots — and keep them to one-and-done.”

“Our big focus was to out-rebound the teams, because that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Senior forward Janee Simmons, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, said, “When we slow the game down, we can make them play at our pace — make them play we want them to play.”

Asia Wheeler also had a good afternoon, making 7 of 13 field-goal attempts and finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Baker said, “Both of our post players had a double-double (today), which is huge. ... Anytime you have two players inside, being that aggressive on rebounding — not necessarily getting the ball initially, but crashing that glass, and wanting it, (helps us) big-time.”

“We try to focus more on defense, and to lock down on that. We push the ball.”

Rio Grande (14-7, 3-6 Mid-South) went 0-for-10 from 3-point range, and the lack of an outside threat helped in Bluefield’s plan to guard the paint.

“Bluefield’s a good athletic team,” said Rio Grande head coach David Smalley, in his 22nd season at the school in rural southern Ohio.

“Good, athletic skill-set teams give us a lot of problems, obviously. We’re not shooting the ball really well at this point. I’ve got some 3-point shooters that are just nonexistent.”

The RedStorm, which arrived averaging almost 90 points, made 37.7 percent of its floor attempts, well below its season average of 46.1 percent.

Bluefield (9-8, 4-5 MSC) grabbed 45 rebounds to Rio Grande’s 38. The Lady Rams cleared the offensive board 14 times, generating 14 second-chance points. BC used 10 players, eight of whom played 12 minutes or more.

Baker said, “That’s really a blessing about this year, is that we’re really deep. We haven’t had that in the past, so we were able to get fresh legs in there.”

Rio Grande jumped ahead by seven points in the first four minutes, but it didn’t last. Simmons connected on the only 3-pointer by either side in the game to complete a run and give Bluefield a 17-15 lead.

Simmons scored six straight points to erase Rio Grande’s last lead of the half, staking the Lady Rams to a 27-25 advantage. Senior Teqa McNeal darted past the defense for a layup with 2:09 left before intermission, giving BC a 36-29 edge.

The RedStorm outscored their host 5-1 to close out the half, trimming the margin to 37-34.

The Lady Rams went more than six minutes in the second half without making a field goal, but the visitors were only able to take a 46-44 lead in that span.

Baker said, “We always think our offense starts with our defense, so even though we were going through a dry spell, as long as they’re going through the same dry spell, we’re in good shape.”

“We had some self-inflicted turnovers in transition during that dry spell, that we really should have executed and we didn’t.”

Simmons said, “We had to be humble. (We said) we got ourselves into this. Now we have to get ourselves out of it.”

Rio Grande went on to a 57-52 advantage on a three-point play by Alexis Payne with 6:34 remaining. BC answered with 10 straight points and did not trail again, gaining its largest lead at 71-63 with 1:07 left.

The rest of Bluefield’s points came on 4-for-6 foul shooting in the final minute.

The RedStorm’s Brianna Thomas accounted for 21 points, slightly above her average, and added four assists and four steals. Brooke Marcum had 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Payne chipped in 10 points.

Monique Robson came off the Bluefield bench and scored 18 points, going 7 for 12 from the field and canning all four of her free throws.

Baker said that the team’s two seniors, Simmons and McNeal, are keys to the squad’s success.

“Usually we go through (Simmons), but this time, we couldn’t really go through her, because they were playing pretty good initial defense,” Baker said. “So she was doing all the little ‘dirty work.’ Janee was huge, this game.”

“Teqa and J really put the team on their back. Teqa’s doing a great job being point guard.” Reiterating that McNeal is playing out of position at the point, the coach said, “She’s getting better every game.”

Simmons said, “I was actually really motivated today. This is my senior year and I want to make it special. I’m happy for our team; they’re very talented.”

Baker said, “That’s one of the things that we’re working on, that we shouldn’t have to beg each other to be great. We should want to be great, for each other.

“And that, no matter what, we’re going to get hit, every game, so it’s just a matter of us fighting back.”

Smalley said, “The bottom line is, the last few games we’ve played in the Mid-South Conference, they’ve just been pretty solid defensive teams, and they’re just holding us down.”

“They are good enough to do that, and we’re not good enough to overcome it.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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