West Virginia State's Jasmine Blanton (right) tries to drive past West Virginia Wesleyan's Allie Browne.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- West Virginia State's women's basketball team hasn't had much luck of late in the West Virginia Conference tournament.That luck didn't change Monday at Fleming Hall.No. 11 seed West Virginia Wesleyan, now 9-17, received 17 points and 11 rebounds from Brittany Maxie and four 3-point goals from Kerry Conroy in a 66-56 first-round tournament victory over the sixth-seeded Yellow Jackets, who concluded their season 13-14.Wesleyan will face Fairmont State at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Charleston's Civic Center in the quarterfinals.
After last season, Monday's decision might not have been a surprise. The Bobcats won the regular-season and conference tournament. Their fortunes reversed during this regular season, though, and State was coming off a nice victory over the University of Charleston and had first-team all-conference selection Jasmine Blanton on the floor.Blanton, however, was held to 5-of-15 shooting and the Jackets were without Ka'Shauna Cook and Janelle Williams and down to nine players. State shot 38.9 percent from the floor."We didn't shoot the ball well," said State coach David Smith. "We got in a hole in the first half. Plus, we didn't handle success well. And with Cook out, we are so limited and no one picked us up.""We played defense," said Wesleyan coach Jacqueline DeVane. "We wanted to neutralize No. 34 [Asia-Bryanne Greenleaf] and No. 20 [Blanton] and we did that."Greenleaf, a 6-foot-1 forward from Parkersburg, was saddled with four fouls and finished with just three points. Blanton had 13 points.Wesleyan dominated the rebounding statistic, winning the battle there by 47-33.
"We said control the boards and we win the game," DeVane said.State led the game at the outset and held a 17-11 advantage when Blanton went off glass at the 11:05 mark of the first half. Wesleyan, though, charged back to outscore the hosts 27-10 to finish the half. Conroy, a 5-8 junior guard, was a key with three 3-point goals.The Bobcats extended their lead at the beginning of the second half to 15 at the 16:24 mark on an Allie Browne trey from the top of the key.State did have one charge left. Jordan Brock, who finished with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, fueled a rally. The hosts actually cut the lead to 51-48 on a Brock inside move.Maxie, however, drilled a trey at the 10:41 mark to move her team back out to a 54-48 lead and the visitors were never headed. An Atavia Blake jumper around the 2-minute mark was the dagger. Blake finished with 14 points.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.