By Gary Dove
For The Register-Herald
CLEAR FORK —
Westside sophomore sensation Hope Lester highlighted the defending Class AA state champion Lady Renegades’ ultra-active offense with 27 points last night to lead her team to a 68-34 Region III title win over the Bluefield Lady Beavers at Westside High School.
A quick bucket by Lester only eleven seconds into the game gave the Lady Renegades a 2-0 lead before Dazia Edwards knotted the count at two with a deuce from inside.
That was the only tie of the game, as Lester scored on a spin, Megan Endicott and Faith Davis had an offensive rebound bucket each and Westside was off and running, literally as well as figuratively.
Shella Hopkins connected on a three and Jesslyn Fullerton downed a 12 foot jumper at the 2:19 mark to close to within one, at 10-9, before the Lady Renegades scored the final seven points of the frame to take a 17-9 advantage.
Senior point guard Morgan Spolarich started the spurt with a steal and bucket before Lakyn Walker, coming off the bench, connected on a trey and Lester added a deuce with eight ticks remaining.
Walker bombed another trifecta to open the second before Lester went to work from inside, scoring eight of her 27 in the second.
The Lady Beavers were able to stay within striking distance, trailing only 27-20 with 2:51 showing before Westside went on a 9-1 run to close the half holding a 36-21 lead.
Lady Renegade starters Danielle Brown and Megan Endicott both sat out much of the opening half with two fouls apiece, but Walker, Kristen Hash and Stephanie Brown filled in admirably in their absence.
Westside head coach Jamie Lusk spoke after the game of his halftime talk, “We talked about getting back and playing the way we’re able to play. Get two of our starters back in the game…I was proud in the first half of how well our bench played.”
The Lady Renegades came out, heeding the instructions given at the break. They outscored Bluefield 32-13 in the second half in completely dominating play in the win.
Danielle Brown came back in the third to knock down three three point goals, while Lester ventured outside to chalk up one of her own. In fact, all four Westside third quarter goals were threes.
Veteran Beaver head coach Tony Mallamaci spoke of the defensive presence inside by Lester, “We knew we weren’t going to get anything inside. We wanted to go to a smaller lineup and try to get some looks, using screens and motion. We got some looks, but we weren’t knocking them down tonight.”
Lusk also commented on his team’s defense, “We’ve got to get stops on defense. When we play strong defensively, our offense plays well too. We get a lot of offense from our defense. Our defense has been our strength all year.”
Lester added eight more points in the final chapter before exiting with the other Lady Renegade starters, as Westside outscored the Lady Beavers 15-4 over the last eight minutes.
Danielle Brown, on the strength of the aforementioned three treys, added nine points for the Lady Renegades, while Faith Davis and Walker finished with seven each for the 23-1 Westside quintet. Spolarich and Hash chipped in five apiece.
Hopkins’s seven points paced the Lady Beavers, who finish 13-11, with Khadijah Brown contributing six and Destiny Sims, Edwards and Fullerton all tossing in five.
Wrapped up Coach Lusk, “I’m just thrilled about how we came out in the second half and played.”
Westside will await the announcement of next Thursday’s seedings to see who the first round opponent will be that day.
Bluefield: Destiny Sims 1 2-4 5, Dazia Edwards 2 1-2 5, Khadijah Brown 1 3-4 6, Jessica Hayden 1 0-0 2, Jesslyn Fullerton 2 0-0 5, Shella Hopkins 3 0-0 7, Dazia Taxley 1 2-4 4. Totals 11 8-14 34.
Westside: Morgan Spolarich 1 3-6 5, Hope lester 11 4-7 27, Danielle Brown 3 0-0 9, Faith Davis 2 3-4 7, Megan Endicott 2 0-0 4, Kristen Hash 2 1-1 5, Lakyn Walker 2 1-2 7, Stephanie Brown 1 0-0 2, Brooke Milan 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 12-20 68.
B 9 12 9 4 — 34
W 17 19 17 15 — 68
3-point goals: B 4 (Sims, Brown, Fullerton, Hopkins); WE 6 (D. Brown 3, Walker 2, Lester 1). Fouled Out: None