Beavers collect early holiday gift
Bluefield (71) Vs. Graham (49)
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. — The G-Girls would have liked to wrap up cross-town rival Bluefield for an early Christmas present.
That Jia girl had other holiday plans.
Jia Coppola scored a game-high 25 points and the Lady Beavers won Thursday night’s Battle of Bluefields with a 71-49 rout at Graham.
“She’s battled little nagging injuries over the last two years. But when she’s healthy, she can do that,” said Bluefield head coach Tony Mallamaci.
Coppola scored nine of Bluefield’s opening 15 points in a takeover bid which memory-bombed a magical career moment for G-Girls star guard Lexi Kiser.
Kiser scored her 1,000th career point when she nailed a 3-pointer to give Graham an 8-4 lead at 6:11 in the first quarter. An official time out was called. The game ball was awarded. Roses were delivered. Photos were taken.
Moments later, Bluefield’s relentless pressure defense proceeded to skin the G-Girls alive.
“We played our 2-2-1 halfcourt trap and that’s probably the best we’ve ever played it. We created a lot of turnovers and got us out in open court and transition,” Mallamaci said. “It’s definitely the best we’ve played this year. It may be the best we’ve played in two years. Everything seemed to be clicking.”
Graham trailed 25-10 as of Coppola’s transition layup at 4:50 in the second period. Emboldened by a Kiser trey at 4:30, the G-Girls exploited a couple of momentum-breaking Bluefield fouls and a missed layup to scrap back to within striking distance. Another trifecta by Kiser at 2:47 had Graham within nine points.
Autumn Spangler unleashed Bluefield’s lone 3-pointer of the night 20 seconds later to whack that gopher. The defensive heat returned with a vengeance and the Lady Beavers led 36-22 at the half.
The start of the third quarter was Bluefield transition, transition and more transition. The G-Girls just couldn’t keep pace.
“We got out-hustled defensively. That’s all there is to it. We really pushed defensive hustle all year and we just didn’t have it tonight. It just wasn’t firing,” said Graham head coach Jessica Gunter.
Dani Janutolo sored 16 points for the Lady Beavers (3-2), her elegant athleticism on display as she bagged at least a half-dozen steals while dishing as many assists. Emeleigh Gallinger rocked out 13 points with eight assists.
While some of the respective fans were stoked for Thursday’s rival clash, it was all business as usual for Coppola.
“Well ... It’s just a game just like every other game. That’s how I look at it,” said Coppola, who tied the game up at 8 with a one-bounce stick back on an offensive rebound and put the Lady Beavers ahead for good, 9-8, when she sank the subsequent and-one with 4:57 showing.
Coppola wasn’t necessarily being as dismissive of Graham as it might have sounded. Bluefield (3-2) takes on Robert C. Byrd at home on Saturday and faces PikeView on Monday before breaking for the holidays. The G-Girls (6-2) have to contemplate Thursday’s loss until taking on Marion on Jan. 5.
Kiser scored 21 points for Graham despite Bluefield’s defensive focus on stopping her.
“Kiser ... we tried to bottle her up and she probably still scored 20-some,” Mallamaci said. “They’ve got a heck of a team. We just played our butts off.”
G-Girls post Dejah Carter, at 6-foot-3 the tallest player on the floor, contributed 14 points for Graham.
“We knew Carter was going to be tough inside. We missed some box-outs and she got some put-backs. But we got into a transition game that would kind of maybe take her out of it a little bit,” Mallamaci said.
Kiser was disappointed to see the Lady Beavers get away with the victory, but when you can reach 1,000 points as a junior — it’s a wonderful life.
“It was a great accomplishment and I couldn’t have gotten it without my team and my coach. Everybody supported me,” Kiser said. “We definitely wanted to come out and have a better game against Bluefield. But they played a great game.”

at Graham Middle School
Atwell 1 0-1 2, Emaleigh Gallinger 6 1-2 13, Jia Coppola 11 3-3 25, Dani Janutolo 8 0-0 16, Lester 3 0-0 6, Spangler 3 2-3 9, Totten 0 0-0 0, Trigg 0 0-0 0, Wallance 0 0-0 0, Beggs 0 0-0 0. Totals, 32 6-11 71.
GRAHAM (6-2)
Lexi Kiser 8 2-2 21, Tignor 0 0-3 0, Perdue 0 0-0 0, Vance 0 0-0 0, Moretto 3 0-0 6, Spencer 1 0-0 3, Riffe 0 1-2 1, Large 2 0-0 4, Dejah Carter 6 2-3 14. Totals 20 5-10 49.
Bluefield.................19 17 21 14 — 71
Graham....................8 14 10 17 — 49
3-point goals: Bluefield 1 (Spangler), Graham 4 (Kiser 3, Spencer).
Game Scoreboard
Bluefield 19 17 21 14 0 71
Graham 8 14 10 17 0 49
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