CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class AA No. 1 Bluefield found itself in a battle with No. 8 River View for three quarters on Thursday, but ultimately pulled away for a 53-41 girls basketball quarterfinal win.
The two teams had already faced off once in the postseason – a 64-30 sectional final win for the Beavers.
“We played River View back in the sectional and it wasn’t really a close game. But I knew this one was going to be different – they had a couple of players injured and we had a player injured (in the first meeting),” said Bluefield coach Tony Mallamaci. “I knew it was going to be a different type of game and they really played their hearts out. They knew where to go against our press and we had to switch defenses a couple of times. It was a very tough game.”
Bluefield (22-2) opened the game on a 12-0 run, but had that lead cut to 12-6 entering the second quarter.
“When we’re behind, we usually just come together as a team and talk about it,” said River View’s Katie Dobbs. “We boost each other up. (Coach Justice) took the timeout when we were down and it brought us back in the game. It was just nerves and jitters. Once he got us over there, we started playing good.”
The Beavers’ Dani Janutolo hit a 3 as time expired in the second quarter, giving Bluefield an eight-point cushion at the break, 29-21.
It was that early start, though, that gave Bluefield enough of a cushion to withstand multiple River View runs the rest of the way. The Raiders were playing in the school’s first ever state tournament.
“At first we could tell that they were nervous to be there,” Janutolo said. “But, just like every player, they got into the game, they pushed and they worked hard.”
A jumper from River View’s Paige Cooper with 2:37 to go in the third brought the Raiders to within one-point, 32-31. A made free threw from River View’s Demi Lester one minute later tied the game at 32-32.
The Beavers scored the final four points of the third to take a 36-32 lead into the fourth.
“Whenever it was a one-point game and they tied it, all that was running through my head was that this couldn’t be our last game,” Bluefield’s Jia Coppola said. “Us girls got together and (decided) we weren’t coming out of here with a loss. Most of us didn’t have a great game and we definitely did not play our game. But, we just picked it up.”
The Beavers gradually pulled away in the fourth quarter and worked the clock, outscoring River View 17-9 in the final stanza.
Bluefield was led by Janutolo who scored 16 points, while Jaisah Smith and Autumn Spangler added 12 points apiece. Katie Dobbs paced River View (19-7) with 13 points, and Kiersten Roberts finished with a double-double – 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The Beavers move on to face either Winfield or Lincoln Friday night at 7:15 p.m.