RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Bluefield (Va.) College outscored the University of Rio Grande 10-4 over the final 3:30 to post an 84-81 win over the RedStorm, Thursday night, in Mid-South Conference women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Rams improved to 12-5 overall and 5-4 in the MSC, snapping a two-game losing streak in the process.
Rio Grande fell for the fifth straight time, dropping to 5-13 overall and 0-10 in league play. It was the fourth loss of the season for head coach David Smalley’s team by five points or less and their third such setback in the MSC.
The game was nip-and-tuck for much of the night, including eight ties and nine lead changes.
Rio led 77-74 following a bucket by senior guard Shardai Morrison-Fountain with 3:32 remaining in the contest, but Bluefield tied the game 20 seconds later on a trio of free throws by Teqa McNeal and went in front to stay on a layup by McNeal with 2:44 left to play.
Janee’ Simmons capped a 7-0 run by the Rams with a jumper in the lane that made it 81-77 with 1:59 showing on the clock.
The RedStorm twice got back within two points - 81-79 following a runner by freshman forward Sarah Bonar with 1:38 left and 83-81 after another bucket by Morrison-Fountain with 52 seconds left - but was never able to tie or take the lead.
Morrison-Fountain had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime after Bluefield’s Ashley White hit one of two free throw tries with 12.5 seconds left to make it 84-81, but her would-be game-tying three-pointer in traffic from 24 feet out failed to draw iron with 2.1 seconds left and the Rams were able to inbound the ball and escape with the win.
Rio jumped to a 10-4 lead in the game’s opening 2:30, but Bluefield reeled off 15 consecutive points to take a 19-10 advantage following a short jumper by White with 13:06 left in the first half.
The RedStorm responded with a 13-4 run of their own over the next 5:12 and knotted the score at 23-all on a basket by junior guard Kate Hammond with 7:54 remaining in the half.
Bluefield eventually settled for a 41-37 halftime lead and managed to build its lead back to as many as eight points, 47-39, after a layup by McNeal with 17:50 left in the game, but Rio rallied yet again with a 9-0 run - capped by a conventional three-point play by Morrison-Fountain with 15:06 remaining — to regain a 48-47 edge of its own.
The RedStorm went on to twice more regain the six-point cushion they enjoyed in the game’s opening minutes, but a conventional three-point play by Simmons with 8:05 left to play finished off a 6-0 Bluefield scoring spurt and tied the game at 65-65.
From that point on, neither team led by more than four points.
Rio Grande shot just under 56 percent from the field in the second half (19-for-34) and 47.2 percent for the game (34-for-72), but was outrebounded 44-39 and finished a dreadful 8-for-21 at the free throw line.
Bluefield had four less field goals than the RedStorm, going 30-for-64 from the floor, but outscored its host 21-8 at the charity stripe.
McNeal finished with a game-high 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Rams, while Simmons added 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Monique Robson netted 16 points in the winning effort, while White chipped in with 13 points, six assists and five steals.
Morrison-Fountain led Rio Grande with 24 points and five steals, while Bonar added 16 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Hammond also hit double figures, finishing with 15 points.
The RedStorm return to action on Saturday, hosting WVU Tech in a non-conference affair at the Newt Oliver Arena. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.