Beavers sweep series from G-Girls
Bluefield (73) Vs. Graham (52)
Jan 07, 2016
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BRUSHFORK — West Virginia students take the Smarter Balance test and Thursday night the Bluefield girls basketball team passed it on the court with flying colors.
Placing all five starters in double figures, the steady Bluefield quintet rolled to a 73-52 triumph over the visiting Graham G-Girls Thursday.
The Graham effort never wavered but a ceaseless progression of alternating defenses, unselfish passing and timely shooting enabled the Bluefield ladies (8-3) to jump out to big lead and maintain control against their cross-town rivals.
Lexi Kiser sparked the Graham offense, tying for game scoring honors with 22 points, while Deja Carter chipped in with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots for the G-Girls (6-3).
It was not enough against the relentless tide of teamwork that swept over from the West Virginia side. Bluefield moved in front by 20 (32-12) with 4:15 left in the opening half on a Dani Janutolo score and although Graham closed to within 12, at 48-36 midway through the third period, the Lady Beavers regained the 20-plus advantage with a surge in the closing moments.
Janutolo, the fastest of the Lady Beavers, was turned loose by coach Tony Mallamaci and the flying sophomore ran her way to 22 points, often on the receiving end of outlet passes as she raced downcourt behind the defenders.
“We worked together as a team tonight,” beamed Janutolo, “moving the ball well and pushing it as fast as we could when we got the chance.”
“We” was the operative word.
Emaleigh Gallinger, flashing the form that made her so valuable in last season’s run to the state tournament, piled up Bluefield 16 points and numerous assists, operating the fast break along with steady Alyssa Lester (11 points). Autumn Spangler also popped in 11 for the Lady Beavers and made several good defensive plays.
The Lady Beavers jumped out to a 23-9 first quarter lead including a 12-0 run in which all five starters scored. That string was broken by Kiser’s trey and a pair of free throws by Carter, and the G-Girls battled back to finish the second quarter on dead even terms as each team scored 13 points in the second stanza. Karrah Large, teaming the post with Carter, had a couple of buckets for Graham in the period.
Much as Gallinger had helped to jump start the Lady Beavers in the first period, Jia Coppola stepped in the kept Bluefield on course before halftime. Coppola, battling like a warrior inside against Carter, spun through for two late scores. Carter, equally determined, popped in four of Graham’s last six points of the opening half.
Bluefield maintained the momentum over the last two quarters and grabbed their second win of the campaign over the G-Girls. “Teamwork – we had that tonight,” beamed Coppola, who scored 13 points, had two blocks and 9 rebounds while giving away five inches in height to the opposing center in a real duel underneath.
“We knew they (Graham) could not stop all of us and we just said before the game there in no ‘I’ in team. I was happy we won and pleased that everybody on the floor contributed a lot to victory.”
Coppola, who likely could have had several more points, consistently worked inside, often passing to open teammates and that unselfish play was a key factor for the balanced attack.
Nevertheless, it was Gallinger’s return to form that helped propel the fast break and the good getaway.
“We put in a new defense yesterday,” said the senior guard. “We knew they (Graham) would recognize that 2-2-1 zone from the first game, so Coach told us to start out in a 1-2-2 and we would switch out from time to time. We were trapping up on the wings because we know that Lexi (Kiser) is a great shooter so even though we couldn’t stop her we tried to slow her down a little. I was happy to be a part of helping us win but it was everybody playing well that made the difference.”
For her part, Kiser, who went over the 1,000-point in that first game against Bluefield, was still effective including a pair of dazzling three-point shots, but ultimately not a game-breaker.
“Bluefield is very athletic,” she said. “We played hard but they were ready at every position. They are well coached and we just fell a little short. I am pleased with how hard we played.”
Graham coach Jessica Gunter agreed, noting, “I am really happy with the effort we had. This (game) will be a good learning experience and will help us down the road. We need to play good teams to improve ourselves and Bluefield is a fine team. We had a few defensive breakdowns to help them but I thought our girls gave a good effort and they played hard for four quarters.”
The final result was (finally) soothing to her coaching counterpart, Mallamaci.
“I feel better now than I have in a couple of weeks,” grinned the Beaver boss. “Everybody played hard, played unselfishly. It was good to see us passing 3-4 times before we shot. Our fast break was effective and the girls ran defenses like we practiced. This was good for all of us. The coaches felt like the players listened to what we said in practice this week and the team went out there and put on a pretty good display of team basketball. If we keep doing that, I believe we will be a team to contend with at tournament time.”
Graham hosts Bland tonight in a boys-girls quad match with the G-Girls varsity tipping off at around 7 p.m. Bluefield will travel to Tolsia Saturday with a 4 p.m. tipoff.

At Brushfork Armory
GRAHAM (6-3)
Lexi Kiser 22, Brittney Tignor 4, Carly Moretto 6, McKenzie Riffe 2, Karrah Large 8, Deja Carter 10
Autumn Spangler 11, Alyssa Lester 11, Jia Coppola 13, Dani Janutolo 22, Emaleigh Gallinger 16
Graham.......................9 13 16 14 — 52
Bluefield..................23 13 18 19 — 73
3-point goals: Graham 2 (L. Kiser 2), Bluefield (none).
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Bluefield 23 13 18 19 0 73
Graham 9 13 16 14 0 52
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