In the clutch on Tuesday night, the Bluefield Lady Beavers put their postseason destiny into the hands of — well, Destiney, and Jesslyn.
Destiney Sims and Jesslyn Fullerton scored 19 points each, and combined to power a third-period run that gave Bluefield enough cushion to outlast James Monroe 65-61 in a semifinal of the Class AA, Region 3, Section 2 tournament at Princeton Senior High School.
Jordan Page paced a furious fourth-quarter comeback try for the Lady Mavericks, cutting a 14-point Bluefield lead to four at the final buzzer. Page led all scorers with 25 points, including six three-pointers.
Bluefield used its inside game effectively in the first and third periods, and then turned to their guards for crucial points.
Bluefield head coach Tony Mallamaci said, “That is pretty much our strength, is our inside. We’ve got three or four good post players. Then we picked up a little bit of foul trouble, so we had to sit a couple of them in the second quarter.
“But we got ’em back in in the second half, and started to get it back inside.”
“We’ve got some good guards, too, and they stepped up and hit some big shots. ... That’s probably the best perimeter shooting we’ve had all year.”
Neither side led by more than four points in the first half, which included a four-minute scoreless stretch. Fullerton hit a three from the key with 10 seconds left in the half to break the game’s final tie. The Lady Beavers led 25-23 at intermission.
Bluefield outscored the Lady Mavericks 24-9 in the next eight minutes, holding James Monroe without a point in the final 2:30 of the third quarter.
Mallamaci said, “We’ve had trouble, throughout the year, in the third quarter, so we stressed to them at halftime to come out in the third quarter and get a good start. And we did.”
“That carried us through, because they (James Monroe) made a heck of a run in the fourth. That was crazy.”
James Monroe head coach Malory McPherson said, “It’s like we have a curse (in the) third quarter, every time we lose. We dig ourselves into a deficit and we always come out firing in the fourth, on fire. And it seems like it’s a little too late.
“But I couldn’t be prouder of the girls. A lot of kids would have hung their heads and (given) up, but ours obviously didn’t.”
McPherson said, “We knew we had to stop them defensively. We did in the first half, but that third quarter was just brutal.”
Sims said about her squad’s teamwork, “We executed the ball very good. We looked for each other’s passes, looked for each other to give shots.”
With two seconds left in the third, Sims launched a long three-pointer from in front of her bench. Her teammates, and many Bluefield fans in the stands, rose from their seats and held up their arms — and yelled as the ball swished through for a 49-32 advantage.
Sims said about her coach’s instructions, “He told me to make sure I followed my shot. If I got the shot, just take it.”
Another three by Sims gave Bluefield a 57-40 lead with 4:14 to go — seconds after Page connected on a trey from NBA range.
Bluefield led by 12 points with a minute left, but the Lady Mavs did not go quietly.
Page scored 14 points, nailing four treys, in the game’s final five minutes and a last-second three by Laine Shiflet made the final point spread four points.
Mallamaci said, “Jordan Page, I think that’s some of the best shooting I’ve seen, male or female ... all year. I mean, she just took that team on her back. If I didn’t have to be coaching against her, that’d be fun to watch.”
McPherson said, “There’s no way around it, she’s a tremendous shooter.”
Fullerton, meanwhile, celebrated her highest-scoring game of the season. “My team really motivated me,” she said. “I just like to play hard and give it all I’ve got.”
Dazia Edwards and Shelia Hopkins each scored 10 points for Bluefield.
Sisters Carter and Laine Shiflet had 12 and 11 points for James Monroe, which ended its season.
McPherson said about the future, “Obviously, I’m going to miss my six seniors tremendously. That’s a huge void.”
“But we’ve got a lot of underclassmen who’ve had a lot of experience this year, fortunately. We’ve got Carter Shiflet and Laine returning. (We’ve) got some guards with some experience. So, we’re going to just — prepare for next year.”
Bluefield advances to play PikeView in the sectional championship game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Lady Panthers have beaten Bluefield twice this season, 55-45 and 50-39.
Mallamaci said, “That’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to have a chance. PikeView’s awfully good, they’re about 10 deep, athletic, very fundamentally sound, very well-coached. It’s going to be a hard game.”
Fullerton said, “I think that we need to keep practicing, and work hard. We’ve got to get ready for them, because they’re not going to be easy.”
The winner of that game will host a Region 3 co-final next week, while the loser will go on the road for a regional co-final game against the champion of Section 1, which includes defending state champion Westside.
“We’d much rather host one than to travel, probably, to Westside,” Mallamaci said. “That wouldn’t be fun.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Princeton Senior High School
JAMES MONROE (12-9)
Carter Shiflet 4 4-6 12, Emily McKinney 0 0-1 0, Jordan Page 8 3-5 25, Kelsie Mann 3 1-8 7, Laine Shiflet 3 4-7 11, Kelsie Gillespie 0 2-2 2, Kayla Via 1 0-0 2, Mikaila Moran 1 0-2 2. Totals 20 14-31 61.
Kaitlyn Thompson 0 0-2 0, Destiney Sims 6 4-12 19, Jesslyn Fullerton 7 3-4 19, Tyra Jackson 2 2-2 6, Dazia Edwards 2 6-8 10, Abby Atwell 0 1-2 1, Khadijah Brown 0 0-2 0, Sheila Hopkins 5 0-0 10, Dazia Taxley 0 0-2 0. Totals 22 16-34 65.
James Monroe................10 13 9 29 — 61
Bluefield...........................14 11 24 16 — 65
Three-point goals — JM 7 (Page 6, L. Shiflet 1); BHS 5 (Sims 3, Fullerton 2). Total fouls — JM22, BHS 22. Fouled out — BHS, Edwards, Jackson, Hopkins. Technical foul — JM, Page.