BRUSHFORK — It was only fitting that Princeton’s game-winning field goal started with defense on Tuesday evening.
Maddie Blankenship pounced on a loose ball, shoved it downcourt, and Taylor Scott issued an off-balance shot in the paint just before the buzzer sounded to give the Lady Tigers a 46-44 win over the Bluefield Beavers on Tuesday evening at Brushfork Armory.
“I just saw the ball, and went and got it,” Blankenship said. “I threw it to Taylor Scott, and I knew she had it from there.”
Princeton head coach Tracy Raban said, “We get a rebound, and I’m yelling for Taylor just to go. ... I’ve been asking for it for three games now, for her to just turn it on and do what Taylor can do. It just showed that she has guts and heart, and she stepped up and hit a big basket for our team tonight.”
Scott gave credit to Blankenship, who sank two free throws with 20.8 seconds left to create the game’s 10th tie, 44-44.
“When Maddie B tied it up, I knew that we had a chance.”
Neither team led by more than five points all night. Bluefield (1-1) took a quick 5-0 lead on the first of three treys by Emilee Beggs. One minute later, the Lady Tigers (3-0) tied it 5-5 via a 3-pointer by Scott. The teams played almost seven minutes before the first foul was called.
Late in the first half, Madisun Parsons sank back-to-back buckets to pull Princeton back into the lead by three, but a putback by Bluefield’s Jaisah Smith narrowed the deficit to 17-16 at intermission.
Princeton held Bluefield without a field goal for almost five minutes of the third quarter but could gain only a 25-20 advantage. Bluefield’s Carly Moretto drained a 3-pointer to tie the game again, 25-25, going into the final frame.
Autumn Spangler gave the Beavers their final lead, 44-42, with 35 seconds left, driving the lane and finishing off the three-point play with a foul shot.
Bluefield head coach Tony Mallamaci said that Spangler is working her way back from a knee injury.
“It’ll take a few more weeks to get her back, probably, to 100 percent,” the coach said. “But I thought, even on one-and-a-half legs, I thought she played a pretty good game.”
“She’s very tough, mentally. She is a rock. She’s been like that since she was in the ninth grade.”
Bluefield shot 16 of 55 from the field. Mallamaci said, “I don’t feel like I had us prepared. I don’t feel like I had a good game plan going in, and Coach Raban always has a good game plan. Our kids played hard; I couldn’t ask (any) more from them.”
“We were cold, and we didn’t get it inside enough. Part of that was due to their defense. They had us bottled up and we couldn’t get it inside. So it kind of forced us to shoot outside, and we weren’t making them.”
Raban said defense again won the game.
“We struggled on the offensive end of the floor,” the coach said. “I felt like our girls executed (our game plan) on the defensive end of the floor. They stepped up and hit some big shots, but we never quit. We stayed with the game plan and the girls executed down the stretch for us.”
Raban said, “The girls, for the first time, I think are starting to believe in what we’ve got going on here. They’re very well disciplined. They listened tonight, and overall, that’s what got us the victory tonight.”
Scott said about the final few minutes on Tuesday, “It was stressful, honestly, but if we use each other, and not just keep rotating the ball, we’ll get it done.”
She added, “I love to play aggressive.”
Blankenship said the 3-0 start “feels amazing. We have all kinds of heart and we don’t give up.”
Princeton travels to Greenbrier East on Thursday and Bluefield plays at Tazewell on Friday.
At Brushfork Armory
Taylor Scott 4 2-5 13, Madisun Parsons 5 2-3 12, Lauren Parish 1 3-4 5, Kailey Sarver 2 1-2 5, Maddie Blankenship 2 2-2 8, Sadie Boggess 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 10-16 46.
Autumn Spangler 3 3-3 9, Carly Moretto 3 2-2 10, Laamaj Wallace 2 2-6 6, Jaisah Smith 3 0-0 6, Emilee Beggs 4 0-0 11, Ayonna Helm 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 7-11 44.
Princeton..............7 10 8 21 — 46
Bluefield.................8 8 9 19 — 44
3-point goals — Pctn 6 (Scott 3, Blankenship 2, Boggess 1); Blfd 5 (Moretto 2, Beggs 3). Total fouls — Pctn 13, Blfd 13. Fouled out — none.