By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
For the first time in the history of the storied Bluefield-Graham rivalry, the Battle of the Bluefields, in any sport, took place in McDowell County.
In the only meeting of the year between the two girls basketball teams, the Graham G-Girls defeated the Bluefield Lady Beavers 40-36 to win the third annual Little General Invitational at River View High School.
Graham scored the first points of the game on a bucket by Emaleigh Gallinger, but Tyra Jackson dropped in three straight baskets in the paint and Dazia Edwards added a free throw to give Bluefield a 7-2 advantage.
Bluefield’s run ended when Carolyn Springer scored, but Bluefield’s Destiny Sims charged back with a three to give the Lady Beavers a 10-4 lead.
Graham scored the final four points of the period and Bluefield led 10-8 after eight minutes.
Opening the second quarter Graham closed to within one point before Sims made a bucket, stole the outlet pass after she missed a free throw and popped in a three to push the Lady Beavers lead back to six at 15-8.
Bluefield’s lead grew as high as nine on bucket by Jessica Hayden, a steal on the inbounds pass and another basket by Jackson midway through the second stanza.
“Bluefield was giving us some pressure, but the full-court wasn’t the problem,” said Graham head coach Tracy Raban. “We handled that, but we didn’t settle down when we got it into the half court and they forced us to speed it up in the half court set when we needed to slow it down.”
The Lady Beavers led 19-16 at the break.
In the third quarter the G-Girls came out looking like a new team. From the onset they feed the ball down low to Erin Wilson. A Wilson basket and free throw by Karly Morgan knotted the game at 19, 90 seconds into the second half.
Graham took its first lead since the opening minutes when Wilson sank a free throw and the G-Girls slowly built their lead that stretched to seven points and it was Graham on top 28-24 after three quarters of action.
“She (Wilson) stepped it up,” Raban said. “I felt like Erin had it in her. She had a little knee injury. She proved the first half she wanted to come and play, so we made an adjustment at halftime and with her stepping up, the rest of the team stepped up.”
Bluefield, meanwhile, could not buy points in the third quarter as they only scored two baskets and a free throw.
“If you don’t score, you can’t set your press up,” said Lady Beavers head coach Tony Mallamaci. “They out-executed us, but we also beat ourselves. We missed lay-ups, balls going through our hands, couldn’t catch it, dribbling crazy, forcing bad passes.
“She (Graham coach Raban) is an awesome coach. I get out-coached every time we play them, and they out-executed us in the half court.”
In the fourth the Lady Beavers tied the game at 20 on an Edwards basket, but Graham went on a 6-0 run, highlighted by an Ashley Rasnake score and another basket by Morgan to give Graham its largest lead, 34-28, with just under two minutes remaining.
Again Bluefield battled back as Sims drained a three with 8.8 seconds left, but it was too little, too late and the G-Girls grabbed the win.
“Our kids never quit,” Mallamaci said. “They played hard. The effort was there and that’s all a coach can ask from that perspective.”
Morgan and Wilson each had nine points to lead the G-Girls who improved to 3-0 and visit Tazewell on Tuesday.
Sims led Bluefield with 14, including three treys, and Jackson added 12 for the 1-1 Lady Beavers. Bluefield plays next on Tuesday, hosting Summers County.
Gallinger was named tournament MVP. She, along with Wilson and Ashley Moretto of Graham, and Bluefield’s Jackson and Sims, were named all-tournament.
At River View High School
Graham — Karly Morgan 4 1-2 9, Erin Wilson 3 2-5 8, Alysia Leung 1 0-0 2, Emaleigh Gallinger 3 3-6 9, Taylor Williams 0 0-1 0, Bethany Evans 0 1-2 1, Ashley Rasnake 1 0-1 2, Ashley Moretto 3 1-3 7, Carolyn Springman 1 0-0 2, Totals 16 8-20 40.
Bluefield — Bailey Cassell 0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Thompson 0 2-2 2, Jesslyn Fullerton 0 0-0 0, Tyra Jackson 6 0-0 12, Jessica Hayden 1 0-0 2, Dazia Edwards 1 2-4 4, Abby Atwell 0 0-0 0, Destiny Sims 5 1-3 15, Khadijah Brown 0 0-0 0, Teryn Auville 0 0-0 0, Totals 13 5-9 36.
Graham……........................8 8 12 12 — 40
Bluefield…......................…10 9 5 12 — 36
Three point baskets: Graham, none; Bluefield 3 (Sims 3).