By MIKE DAVIS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHMOND, Va. —
Richlands came through on the promise they made to themselves a year ago after making it to the Group AA state basketball final four and getting beat by Liberty-Bealeton.
They told themselves they were going to be back this year and they delivered with a quarterfinal win last week to earn a trip to the final four in Richmond on Tuesday.
The Lady Blues played with the credentials necessary to punch their card for the championship game on Saturday for two and a half quarters before Brunswick capitalized on critical Richlands mistakes to erase their chances get the win, 65-55.
“I thought our kids played their hearts out,” Richlands head coach Dennis Palmer said. “They just had a bad stretch with an 8-point (Brunswick) run, but we battled back and got within three (in the end), but, we just couldn’t get over the hump.
“Brunswick plays pressure defense and that’s how they play their game — they create turnovers and score points off of it. We didn’t get back on defense (at times) quick enough and gave up some easy buckets. If we kept them outside, we could do well, but, easy lay ups is hard to handle.”
A quick whistle saddled Richlands junior, Brittany Allen, with a foul four seconds into the game, then, Rachel Alley was also tagged early. The Lady Blues jumped ahead, 5-2, with a pair of layups by Allen and Sarah Compton.
The lead changed hands four times in the first quarter before Brunswick went ahead 13-11 with neither team able to gain momentum.
“Richlands proved themselves to be a very talented team and defending the outside shooter has been one of our greatest challenges this season,” Brunswick head coach Juliana Lashley-Grant said. “They were our biggest challenge so far this year, but, the girls stepped up to the challenge. Overall, I thought it was a hard-fought game.”
The Bulldogs broke out of a 16-16 tie in the second period with an 8-0 run before Richlands halted the breakout with a pair of free throws from Montana Hearl and a three-pointer from Cassidy Richardson.
The effort stalled Brunswick long enough for the Blues to pull within three by intermission with the score, 24-21. Alley had three fouls by the break, causing problems for the Richlands inside game.
“We played the quarterfinal game and we may have had eight total fouls called in the first half,” Palmer said. “Rachel gets two right off the bat and that changes your game plan. There were a couple of jump balls I thought should be fouls.”
The Lady Blues came out in the third and had the lead after the first minute and the half of play before drawing a cold hand and getting bit by the turnover bug. The Lady Blues turned the ball over eight times across the next six minutes, missed five three-pointers and three layups while the Bulldogs built a 45-36 lead by the end of the third leading by as much as 13 at one point.
Down but not out, the Lady Blues whittled away at Brunswick’s lead with steady transition play and cut it to three points with 2:53 left in the game with the score, 55-52. However, a 10-3 run by the Bulldogs down the stretch dashed Richlands chances at advancing a one more step in the tournament.
The Bulldogs were led by Myneshia Walker with 21 points followed by Desiray Bennett (16) and Bria Stith (12). Walker pulled down seven defensive boards and Bennett had 13 for a double-double.
The Lady Blues were led by Allen with 14 points and seven rebounds with Richardson and Hearl chipping 13 points apiece. Alley had 10 rebounds and six blocks, however, played only 16 minutes of the game because of foul trouble.
“It was disappointing to get here and not go any farther,” Allen said. “But, I’m proud of our team and what we’ve achieved.”
Richlands finishes their season at 21-5 after posting their third consecutive region championship and third state tournament appearance.
Brunswick will play for the Division 3 state title on Saturday against Spotswood. Ironically, those same two schools will also play for the boys state crown on the same afternoon.
at the Siegel Center
Myneshia Walker 8 4-6 21, Desiray Bennett 6 4-9 16, Juanita Eshelman 2 5-6 9, Bri Stith 4 4-7 12, Tiffany Banks 2 0-0 4, Shalonda Moore 1 0-0 3, Mauricea Mays 0 0-0 0, Harley Jones 0 0-0 0.
Makenley Davis 2 2-4 8, Cassidy Richardson 4 2-4 13, Brittany Allen 5 4-6 14, Sarah Compton 1 2-3 4, Rachel Alley 1 1-2 3, Montana Hearl 4 4-4 13, Nadia Ashiq 0 0-0 0
Brunswick..........................13 11 21 20 — 65
Richlands...........................11 10 15 19 — 55
3-point goals: BR 2 (Walker, Moore); RL 6 (Richardson 3, Davis 2, Hearl)