Early practice pays dividends for G-Girls
Graham (69) Vs. Tazewell (39)
Feb 16, 2016
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. — Former NBA star Allen Iverson once famously ranted about not needing to practice.
Graham girls coach Jessica Gunter felt differently, calling her G-Girls to the gym hours early on Tuesday prior to their first-round Southern Empire Conference tournament game with the Tazewell Lady Bulldogs.
“I think they thought I’d lost my mind,” Gunter said with a smile about her team’s reaction. “But we didn’t go too awfully hard, so it wasn’t the worst practice in the world. We did a lot of shooting, and we reviewed most everything.”
Whether it was the practice session, or the review of a clever game plan, the G-Girls raced away with a 69-39 win on the Graham Middle School court, advancing to the SEC’s semifinal round and ending the season for the Lady Dogs (1-19).
Graham junior Karrah Large said about the two-hour practice, “It really helped. When you practice hard, you play hard.”
The defense of Graham (13-6) limited Tazewell’s primary offensive weapon, Gracey Cline, to 10 points, and the G-Girls tossed the ball inside on offense to exploit a height mismatch. They also sent platoons of fresh players onto the floor every few minutes.
“We wanted to keep them running,” Gunter said. “Fresh legs is a way to do it.”
Graham forced 10 Tazewell turnovers in each half and the visitors went 3 for 20 from the floor in the first half, leading to a 34-15 advantage for the G-Girls at intermission.
Gunter said, “They took care of the ball, which is important, and then getting those defensive stops makes a big difference. And, certainly, rebounding.”
The G-Girls held an overall 36 to 32 rebounding edge.
Large said about the Graham defense, “We’ve been trying to cut the cutters, and put our hands in the passing lanes.”
Teammate Lexi Kiser said, “We knew that, basically, the offense revolves around Gracey (Cline). Gracey is definitely a great player and they definitely want the ball in her hands. So we knew if we played defense on her, made it a little tougher on her, it would definitely help us out.”
Tazewell never led, but Cline’s transition layup about three minutes into the game produced a 9-6 score. Graham scored the next eight points and padded its lead from there.
Early in the second quarter, Graham’s Carly Moretto stole the ball on back-to-back Tazewell possessions, sparking another 8-0 run by the home team. The Lady Bulldogs went eight minutes without a field goal in the first half.
Tazewell head coach Robin Elkins said, “I think they started to play hard, and for some reason, they just lost their momentum. Graham did an excellent job. (Coach Gunter) did a good job subbing the girls in and out so they had fresh legs. That makes a difference, sometimes.”
Controlling the paint was another key to Graham’s win.
Large, who scored 10 points and had five rebounds, said, “I just try to play my best all the time, but tonight I was a little on fire. When you feed the post the ball, it really helps. I thank my teammates for that.”
Kiser scored 15 points in the second half and ended with a game-high 23. But she said afterward, “Points isn’t what this is about. This is definitely about getting the win, working the ball inside, working the ball outside, teamwork and working defensively, because defense basically wins games.”
Dejah Carter was a defensive force with four blocks. She had four rebounds and six points, playing sparingly due to the rotation of players in and out of the game.
Nine G-Girls contributed rebounds, led by seven from McKenzie Riffe, and 10 entered the scoring column.
“It’s a great night when I have that many people scoring,” Gunter said. “It’s a fantastic night for us.”
Kiser said, “A 30-point win definitely gets us rolling, gives us confidence for the rest of the tournament.”
Large said, “We really wanted to set the tone tonight, for the rest of the tournament season, for other teams coming (up).”
Gunter said, “It certainly primes us for the next round.
“We’ve got the girls in a mindset that we have a rotation going. ... We want them to be prepared to come off the bench and give us quality minutes.”
Cydnee Moore, a Tazewell junior, played hard for all 32 minutes — grabbing two steals in the final minute of play, for example. She led the Lady Bulldogs with 15 points and 12 boards.
Elkins said, “Cydnee, as a post player, I couldn’t say enough about her. I think tonight she exemplified what Tazewell basketball is all about. She’s an awesome kid.”
As the Lady Bulldogs closed out their season, the coach talked about prospects for the future.
“We’ve got a lot to look forward to,” she said. “We’ve got an eighth-grade bunch coming up, (and) I’ve got some freshman girls and some sophomore girls who are willing to put in the time to do what they’ve got to do to change this program around.”
“Another year will make a difference.”
The G-Girls will take on Marion at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the conference semifinals at Virginia High School in Bristol. The championship is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.
Kiser said, “Marion is a great team. They have Margaret Wagner, who’s a great player. They have a couple of other great players, and a great coach. We’re just hoping to play strong, like we did earlier in the season ... .”
— Contact Tom Bone at

At Graham Middle School
Abby Webb 1 1-4 3, Adrienne Crouse 1 1-2 3, Sarah Ray 1 0-0 3, Gracey Cline 2 6-8 10, Karlee Wasilewski 2 1-2 5, Cydnee Moore 4 7-14 15. Totals 11 16-30 39.
Lexi Kiser 10 1-1 23, Brittany Tignor 1 0-0 2, Kathryn Perdue 3 2-2 8, Caitlin Vance 2 0-0 4, Carly Moretto 2 0-0 4, Casey Spencer 2 1-1 5, McKenzie Riffe 1 1-2 3, Karrah Large 5 0-2 10, Dejah Carter 3 0-0 6, Amanda Stroupe 2 0-0 4. Totals 31 5-8 69.
Tazewell.............7 8 11 13 — 39
Graham.............22 12 18 17 — 69
3-point goals — THS 1 (Ray), GHS 2 (Kiser 2).
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Graham 22 12 18 17 0 69
Tazewell 7 8 11 13 0 39
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