WVC women's basketball: Maxey, Blake lift Wesleyan past higher-seed State
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many things went right for the West Virginia Wesleyan women's basketball team on Monday night against West Virginia State.
The Yellow Jackets didn't have the same luck in the first round of the West Virginia Conference tournament.
Brittany Maxey had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Atavia Blake added 14 points and 11 boards for the conference's second-leading rebounding team in a 66-56 upset of sixth-seeded State (13-14) at Fleming Hall.
Maxey, a 5-foot-8 junior from Lufkin, Texas, and Blake, a 6-foot sophomore from Tampa, Fla., have combined for 18 double-doubles for the No. 11 Bobcats (9-17).
Wesleyan moves to Wednesday's quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. against third-seeded Fairmont State (20-9), which earned an 83-47 victory over Wheeling Jesuit at Joe Retton Arena on Monday.
"This young team that we have, took some knots, it took a long time for it to come together," said Wesleyan Coach Jacqueline DeVane, who guided the Bobcats to the WVC tournament title in her first season last year.
Wesleyan got out to a 38-27 halftime lead behind guard Kerry Conroy, who was the beneficiary of the things that went right for the visitors.
Conroy, a senior from Oakland, Md., had 31 3-pointers through 25 games (1.24 per game). She hit three in the first half and four for the game, giving her 48 in two seasons for Wesleyan after spending two years at Shippensburg.
"It was definitely a game-changer for me," Conroy said. "It got me excited and it got the team excited, just the energy level went straight up when we were shooting well."
Former Hurricane High standout Allie Browne finished with five points, seven assists and seven rebounds for Wesleyan.
"It's been a rough road so far," said Browne, who averages 7.5 points and leads the team in 3-pointers. "Hopefully, we can pick it up here in the championships."
State had trailed at halftime in five of its 13 victories, including wins over second-seeded West Liberty and third-seeded Fairmont State.
The Yellow Jackets were on the same track in this one, getting the lead down to seven on a Maria Femia 3-pointer.
A pair of Jasmine Blanton free throws got the lead to five, and a Jordan Brock layup trimmed it to 51-48 with 11:28.
However, Maxey answered with a 3-pointer and State couldn't get closer than five.
Coach David Smith's Yellow Jackets were fighting an uphill battle without forwards Janelle Williams and Kashauna Cook - both injured.
The injuries put State's roster at 8, forcing point guard India Taste to play 40 minutes, guard Jasmine Blanton to play 38 minutes, former Parkersburg South star Asia Greenleaf to play 35 and former Charleston Catholic standout Maria Femia to play 32 (she averaged 6.5 per game). In fact, Femia checked out of the game with 5:39 left and didn't return with State trailing 59-52.
"Our margin for error is so nil, we have to have Blanton getting us 20-some, Asia (Greenleaf) getting us 15 (points) and 10 (rebounds), Brock has to get you 11. Maria Femia, the only thing she can do is shoot a 3 and she can't make one. We scored 56 points? We're not going to beat anybody."
Taste had 13 points and 12 rebounds, but Blanton had 13 - five below her average - Brock had 12 and Greenleaf had only three - seven below her average.
The Yellow Jackets led the conference in field goal percentage defense (35.9), but the Bobcats shot 41.7 percent.
State also was dominated on the boards, where Wesleyan - the conference's second-best rebounding team -- held a 47-33 edge. Taste's 13 was 8.3 more than her average, but she also had six turnovers.
The loss also marked the end of the first season for Smith at State, which enjoyed its highest seed in the WVC tournament since 2004 when it was third under Coach Gil Heasley.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.