AM
Beavers bop Blues
Bluefield (65) Vs. Richlands (57)
Feb 01, 2016
By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BRUSHFORK — Win one for the Maci-Man.
A determined Lady Beaver team, playing Monday like maids on a mission, fended off a valiant effort by never-say die Richlands to grab a hard-earned 65-57 basketball triumph.
With coach Tony Mallamaci out due to his father’s illness and high-scoring Dani Janutolo at home with the flu, Bluefield (12-4) jumped in front and managed to stay there in spite of a fierce late-game rally by the Lady Blue Tornado.
Four BHS ladies hit double digits, barely out-distancing a triple-threat Blue Tornado trio in the see-saw shootout.
Olivia Harmon (20), Ericah Burton (15), and Nadia Ashiq (10) combined for 45 points for Richlands (7-9) which fell behind by as many as 14 points before cutting the margin to five late the fourth quarter.
Burton lofted home a trey to push Richlands into a quick 3-0 lead before Jia Coppola’s steal and assist to Emaleigh Gallinger for a reverse lay-up got the Lady Beavers on the board.
Coppola hit a freebie, tying the score, before Autumn Spangler’s bucket pushed Bluefield in front near the five minute mark in the opening stanza.
As it turned out, the Lady Beavers never lost the lead after that, although the eventual issue remained in doubt until the final minute.
Spangler, who drilled a key three-pointer midway through the second half, played solid defense with a determined inside attack, and finished as the leading Bluefield scorer with 16 points. Spangler’s work at both ends of the floor was a decisive factor.
The Lady Beavers opened up a 33-19 halftime lead, using heads up-hands up defense to fuel the attack.
Richlands, seemingly a different team after halftime, cut the margin to five points, 52-47, with barely four minutes left on a Harmon free throw. Once again, Bluefield held firm and inched away with key plays from senior guard Emaleigh Gallinger.
It was Gallinger, with a cool 10-of-14 at the line, who led the way at crunch time. She finished with 14 for BHS and played effective defense to help clog enemy passing lanes all evening.
Harmon became a virtual one-woman wrecking crew midway through a third-quarter Richlands run. Inside and outside, she took passes, cut to the basket, and when necessary, grabbed the rebounds to find another shot.
She said, “The lane just opened up for me and I took the position. Nadia (Ashiq) got me the ball. Whatever I did, it’s all about teamwork. My teammates dish the ball to me, I dish it back to them. We all try to go to the hot hand.”
A big Bluefield boost was the clutch effort of Abby Atwell. It was Atwell who stepped in for Janutolo and the senior post player left her heart and energy on the floor with an all-out effort.
She got five points but had nine rebounds and five steals to complement her play at both ends of the floor.
Exhausted but happy at the end, she said, “Dani was not feeling well so I knew I had to step up. Coach (Lester) just told me to concentrate and play my game. I am so tired.
“My mind was going full speed out there but by the end of the game, I think my legs were on cruise control. I was not coming off the floor and I wanted to do anything, everything to help my team.”
Coppola, inside insurance for Bluefield all evening, was the BHS good hands girl. Late in the second stanza, the junior standout blocked two straight shots, getting the in-air rebound both times, and finding open teammates heading downcourt.
Coppola, who consistently got fingers on RHS passes, had a dazzling stat sheet. She finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and five blocks while playing the entire game.
Alyssa Lester, who popped in 15 points for Bluefield, capitalized on her quickness and knack for finding downcourt openings on both lay-ups and baseline jumpers. She and Coppola were an effective tandem.
Coppola noted, “I’d rather have assists than points. Richlands was collapsing on me so I knew my teammates would be getting open and I love getting the ball to them. I just want to win, I don’t care who scores.”
Richlands kept the pressure on BHS to maintain an attack, especially with deadly outside shooting from Burton.
“Early on, I guess my confidence was a little slow,” she said. “I got the feel later on, got my confidence up and my teammates found me in the open. I tried my best to help us win in any way I could.”
Burton hit a game-high five 3-pointers for the Lady Blues and was another RHS player to praise her backcourt buddy, Ashiq.
“Nadia was great out there,” said Burton. “She plays so hard, goes to the basket and is unselfish. She was looking for Olivia (Harmon) and me whenever we got open. She means so much to our team.” Hayleigh Whited chipped in eight points for the Lady Blues.
Bluefield was steady under pressure, winning the points battle at the free throw line. The Lady Beavers hit a splendid 23 for 36 at the stripe while Richlands made 10 of 20 attempts.
“We won this one for Coach Mallamaci,” said Bluefield assistant Rick Lester who calmly directed his team to a consistent effort. “I’ve been around the game and coached for a long time, so this kind of pressure is nothing new.
“Richlands is a great team. We (Bluefield) are coming together, there is not one kid out there any more important to her teammates than any other. No matter who we had on the court, we were not looking for excuses – just players to step up. We got that tonight and I like the way we’re playing right now.”
Richlands hosts Twin Valley Wednesday and travels to Tazewell Friday before Union comes calling Saturday. The Richlands junior varsity won 33-20.
Coach Dennis Palmer said of his Lady Blues, “We are kind of playing an NBA schedule. It’s been tough – we have had a stretch of four very good teams.
“Tonight we lost our concentration early and then got it back. We played hard enough in the second half to not only come back but give ourselves a chance to win. We had to use a lot of energy to do that, though, and that makes it tough.
“I like our heart but we have to start a little quicker in games like this against the tough teams, especially on the road.”
Bluefield plays Thursday at home against cross-county rival Princeton.

At Brushfork Armory
RICHLANDS (7-9)
Nadia Ashiq 10, Ericah Burton 15, Seania Overton 4, Olivia Harmon 20, Hayleigh Whited 8.
BLUEFIELD (12-4)
Autumn Spangler 16, Alyssa Lester 15, Jia Coppola 10, Emaleigh Gallinger 14, Abby Atwell 5, Emilee Beggs 5.
Richlands................8 11 20 18 — 57
Bluefield................13 20 13 19 — 65
3-point goals – R 5 (E. Burton 5). B 1 (Spangler). Fouled out – none. JV – Richlands, 33-20.
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Bluefield 13 20 13 19 0 65
Richlands 8 11 20 18 0 57
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