By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Ashley White arrived just in time.
White and Tequila McNeal each scored 16 points and the Bluefield College Lady Rams defeated Bluefield State 73-64 in the Battle of the Bluefields on Wednesday night at a packed Dome Gymnasium.
What made White’s contributions so valuable is they all came in the second half. She was suspended for disciplinary reasons and had to watch from the bench in the opening half.
“She is that kind of player, she is a player that makes us go, she really is our go-to player,” Bluefield head coach M.J. Baker said.
Bluefield also received contributions from the bench, led by Alexis Allen, who had 13 points, including four three-pointers, and 12 points and four steals from Sharonda Tate.
The Rams needed every bit of it against the much-improved Lady Blues, who were playing the game as an exhibition and led 19-6 early in the opening half, and were within one, 33-32, at the break.
Bluefield State was paced by Charity Harris, who had 11 points, six assists and four steals. She is one of several newcomers for the Lady Blues, who played 12 players, including 10 who saw at least 11 minutes on the floor.
“We are trying to bring more energy to the team this season,” said Harris, whose Lady Blues open the season on Nov. 20 at Pitt-Johnstown. “Hopefully we will be prepared extra hard and be ready to go in our first game and try to get that win.”
White made her entrance after the break and wasted no time making an impact, keying a 14-3 run midway through the half with her shooting, passing and ballhandling ability to help the Rams overcome a 48-43 Bluefield State lead and build the margin to 57-51 with 8:59 left to play.
“She is a mid-major Division I player, she is from Philly so she has played a lot of ball,” Baker said. “She has a high IQ about her and does a great job of getting people into the game.”
The Blues tied it again at 57-57 before another 9-2 Bluefield run sparked by a 3 from Celinda Arrington and a drive to the hoop by White helped the Rams take a 66-59 lead with 3:41 to go, and Bluefield State would score just five more points in the game.
It was just the points by White that hampered the Blues. She was able to penetrate, dish the ball off and handle the pressure from Bluefield State in a game that featured 47 fouls and 53 free throws.
White is a senior from Philadelphia, who had previously played at Brewton Parker College in Georgia.
“We were really prepared for her when she came in the second half, but we just needed to stop her penetration,” Harris said. “They had too many drives and kicks and that really threw us off a little bit.”
Bluefield State did hamper the smaller Rams with their size, including from 5-foot-10 Andrea Hauser, 6-1 Shae Mebane (4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocked shots), 5-10 Tasia Nolan (7 points) and 5-10 Tiffany Moorer (4 points, 7 rebounds).
Eleven of the 12 Lady Blues scored in the game, including Dragana Tomic with seven points, and aggressive 5-7 Jenaya Abernathy, who had six points, four boards and two steals.
“Their size really bothered us,” Baker said. “We are small right now, I have two post players eligible right now so we are really small so their size really affected us inside, but the girls really battled hard.”
Arrington had six points, six boards and four assists for the Rams, while Maryah Mazyck contributed three steals and two blocked shots.
Bluefield is now 3-0 on the season, although this may have been the Rams’ toughest test so far.
“I am really impressed with their character, this is the first game we have been in that we have had to come at us like that,” said Baker, whose Rams visit Mount Vernon Nazarene in Ohio on Saturday. “This was fun, but we have got a lot of work to do to get better.”
Bluefield State, which had its other preseason scrimmage at West Virginia Tech postponed by weather, will have to wait 12 days more to open its season for real.
Harris, a junior from Vineland, N.J., expects the Lady Blues to be prepared.
“We are going to get ready,” Harris said. “We have two weeks before our first game so we will be ready for it.”
—Contact Brian Woodson