BLUEFIELD, Va. —
By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. — One ranked foe down, one more to go, in a span of 48 hours.
Teqa McNeal and Asia Wheeler combined to score 13 of Bluefield College’s final 18 points to lead the Lady Rams to a 76-71 Mid-South Conference victory over the University of the Cumberlands, Ky., on a snowy Saturday afternoon at the Dome Gymnasium.
Up next for the Rams (12-10, 6-7) is Georgetown, which entered Saturday’s action ranked eighth among NAIA schools in America, and in second place behind No. 4 Campbellsville in the MSC.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Bluefield head coach M.J. Baker said. “That is the conference, but that is where we want to be. We want to play the best and beat the best.”
Cumberlands (15-9, 9-5), which dropped its third game in its last four decisions, had beaten the Rams 81-71 earlier this season.
“Cumberlands is a great team so to be able to beat them at home is always nice,” Baker said.
McNeal led Bluefield with 20 points, 12 of which came after the break, while Wheeler had 13 of her 19 in the final 20 minutes, as the Rams returned to action after a week’s hiatus when Thursday’s games with Georgetown were postponed due to weather.
“It hasn’t been hard,” said Bluefield junior Monique Robson, on the weather issues of the past week. “I feel like the one day we did have off we kind of rested and we had to regroup and that really worked for us.”
The duo of McNeal and Wheeler helped Bluefield overcome a 60-58 deficit, with McNeal scoring eight points — including a pair of 3s — over the final 7:31, with Wheeler adding five points, making 3-of-4 free throws over the final 2:45
Wheeler also had six rebounds, while McNeal dished out five assists.
“That is one thing about our team that we have a couple of people that have really laid a foundation for us,” Baker said, “and it is just matter of them playing well and them putting the team on their back and we can win.”
Janee Simmons added 12 points and nine rebounds for Bluefield, while Robson had nine points, five boards and three assists for the Rams, which avenged an earlier 10-point loss to the Patriots.
“We were pretty confident,” said Robson. “We never quit, we never gave up and we stayed together.”
Cumberlands (15-9, 9-5), which was led by Brooke Forsythe with 20 points and 15 apiece from Jill Herman and Julie Haye, led from the start, building an 11-point first half lead before settling a 39-30 advantage into the break.
Bluefield, which had 23 turnovers, committed 15 of those in the opening half, which was a major topic in the locker room.
“We basically just went in and said we need to take care of the ball and be smart,” Robson said.
“We just talked about moving the ball more instead of forcing it inside on one ball reversal,” added Baker. “We kept trying to force it inside to Janee and that wasn’t working for us. We just talked about moving the ball more and it worked for us.”
Both Simmons and Destiny Tolliver were challenged on defense by the 6-foot-3 Forsythe, a transfer from American, and one of four Division I imports for the Patriots, which also includes former Syracuse point guard Lynnae Lampkins.
Cumberlands has players from Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Canada, and one from Kentucky.
“Most teams always have a lot of D-I students,” said Baker, whose Rams defeated Cumberland University a week ago in Tennessee. “It was great to play against good competition and come out on top.
“Hopefully the girls will start to believe after the last two games that have been two big wins for us.”
Forsythe was dominant inside, and Herman, who made four 3s, was effective from outside, as the Patriots built a 44-30 lead early in the second half before the Rams began whittling down the margin, cutting the advantage to 2 and 1 before finally taking their first lead on a pair of Wheeler free throws with 9:31 on the clock.
The 6-4 Tolliver, a Bluefield High School product, and the 5-11 Simmons were able to slow Forsythe down inside, not allowing her a field goal over the final five minutes-plus of the game. Herman also had just one point in the second half.
Herman also had five rebounds, three assists and joined Lampkins with four steals. Haye paced the Patriots with seven rebounds and Forsythe blocked three shots. Jackie Alexander added 12 points.
“Tolliver and Simmons from the help side did a great job on her, (Forsythe) is a tough player,” Baker said. “They have four or five D-I transfers over there, but (Herman) has given us problems.”
“Just stay straight up on defense and be smart and try not to foul,” added Robson, on slowing down Forsythe.
After the Rams finally moved ahead, there were five ties and four lead changes until Wheeler canned a pair of charity tosses with 2:45 to play to put the Rams on top to stay.
Cumberlands was able to narrow the margin twice to 1 and once to 2, but a 3 by McNeal with 1:08 on the clock and a layup from Wheeler with 38.4 seconds left helped the Rams pull away for the five-point win.
Alexis Grant, who had three points in the final 6:54, and Whitney Smith, who had two 3s, finished with three steals each. Bluefield outrebounded the Patriots 39-31.
There isn’t much time for Bluefield to celebrate. The Rams’ game with Georgetown that was postponed on Thursday will now be played on Monday, and the Tigers will be hungry, having lost three of its last four.
Bluefield lost its last meeting with Georgetown 98-77 last month, but Robson is confident the Rams will perform better in the Dome.
“That was not a close game,” Robson said. “Basically we have to do what Coach says, get rebounds, crash the boards, be smart and attack.”
— Contact Brian Woodson firstname.lastname@example.org
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
By BRIAN WOODSON
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