By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Even before Bluefield had completed its 63-43 Class AA state championship game win over Fairmont Senior on Saturday, Mike Eades had run down the steps from his seat at the Charleston Civic Center to embrace his son, Anthony, in a tear-filled hug behind the Beavers’ bench.
“I can’t describe the feeling right now,” Mike Eades said. “I am so happy and excited, not only for my son, but also for this team, the coaching staff and all of Bluefield. It is great, it is tremendous.”
Mike Eades should know. He played a key role in Princeton’s state championship title runs in 1979 and1981, but watching Anthony — a junior who scored 27 points for the Beavers — was an even better treat for dad.
“It is a tremendous feeling,” Mike said. “As any parent would know, you will give up any success that you have to see success for your children. This is unreal.
“I have played on two state championship teams, I have refereed in all kinds of places that have been great, but I would throw them all away just to have this moment. Nothing touches it.”
Anthony was happy to share a special moment with his father.
“He told me he would give away his two state championships if I could have one so it means a lot to me because he taught me everything I know about basketball,” Anthony said.
“My dad has taught me a lot about basketball. Just about everything I know has come from him. I wanted to go up there and hug him and congratulate him as well.”
Bluefield assistant football coach Freddie “Fritz” Simon III knows the feeling shared by father and son. He has been part of several state championships in football working under his father, Fred Simon, and understands what it took for the Beavers to finish 25-3 and claim its first basketball title since 1996.
“First and foremost I am for Bluefield High School,” Simon said. “I want all of our sports to succeed and that is why we are up here to support every athletic event we have had and it is has been great.”
Bluefield had gotten to this point four times since 1996, but lost all four so Simon was glad to see a drought of 17 years come to an end.
“It has actually been a little long overdue,” Simon said. “Our last one was, wow, in ’96 so they have been working for this for a long time. It is great to be able to see our community and our players and our fans come up here and enjoy an event like this.”
Mike Eades is also a basketball official, who will be working the ACC championship game today in Greensboro, N.C. He was fortunate to be off Saturday for the semifinal games, and was able to witness a performance that will long be remembered by those Bluefield fans who made the trip to Charleston.
“I was blessed. You either have to work one (day) or the other and fortunately it worked out the way it did,” Eades said. “I am very happy. I am so excited, I can’t tell you how happy I am.”
It wasn’t an easy three-game tournament for the Beavers. They struggled to score and had to resort to gutty defensive efforts in wins over North Marion and Robert C. Byrd. Against the Polar Bears, the Beavers not only stopped the other team, but scored as well in picking the perfect time to play their best game of the postseason.
“I thought we struggled the first two games, but this last one I thought we definitely played more at our pace than Fairmont,” Simon said. “I thought we got them out of their comfort zone, and we were definitely in ours the whole game. I thought we were under control and it was real great and fun to see.”
While Mike was happy for his son, he was quick to point out the contributions of the entire team, especially the starting five of Eades, Lykel Collier, Michael Yost, D.J. Edwards and Corey Coppola, who scored 60 of the Beavers’ 63 points in the game.
Fortunately, the Polar Bears also played a defense that seemed to play into Bluefield’s favor.
“This is the first team that has played us straight up man-to-man,” Eades said. “Where most of these teams have us box-in-one or triangle-in-two, it makes it tough, but we fought through it and won.
“When teams play us straight man-to-man, we have so many mismatches with Anthony and Lykel and Michael and inside with D.J. and Corey. There are just too many mismatches, they can’t handle all of it.”
Just getting to Charleston was a tall task for Bluefield, which lost three games during the season — all to Class AAA schools — and were the top-ranked team in West Virginia for most of the season. In addition, the Beavers still remembered that loss to Tug Valley in the state championship game last March.
“I am happy for the coaches, the fans, the parents, the players, they deserve it. When you lose that championship that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and to be able to come up here and to it, it wasn’t easy,” Simon said. “We had a tough region, and we had a tough go-round once we got up here.
“The North Marion game, the Robert C. Byrd game, they were not easy games. To be able to get through that and succeed in that final championship game, that is great for us to see.”
Eades will return to Greens-boro today to work the ACC championship game between North Carolina and Miami, but the excitement of that opportunity still won’t be more memorable than watching his son — and the Beavers — win a state championship on the court.
“There is no comparison, I couldn’t referee any game or do anything better. This here, as any parent would know, when your children are this happy and this successful there is not a greater feeling in the world,” Eades said. “I am real proud of the whole team.
“People don’t realize, they have had pressure on them all year. They have been ranked number one, they get everybody’s best shot every night and they have gotten this far and won it all. It is tremendous, just tremendous.”
With all five starters back next season for the Beavers, the hope is there for a repeat. Just not yet.
“We have got to enjoy this one now,” said Mike, with a smile.
— Contact Brian Woodson