By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Early in the week in Charleston, the Bluefield Beavers were seated in a restaurant when an interested observer approached Buster Large.
What he said to the Bluefield head coach only reinforced his feelings for this particular collection of athletes, who won their second straight Class AA state championship with a 64-39 win over Robert C. Byrd on Saturday in Charleston.
“He said I just want to tell you that is one of the nicest group of young men and cheerleaders I have ever seen in my life, they are just so respectful and use manners in an orderly manner,” said Large, who urged the man to share those thoughts with members of the Bluefield High School administration, which he did. “He said I see a lot of ball clubs come in here daily, but you are special.”
Special in lots of ways. Just ask Large, who won’t hesitate to brag on the Beavers.
“That says volumes in your program, that says volumes for Bluefield High School,” Large said. “We try to teach the right thing. Athletics and sports can be so much fun when you apply yourself in the right way and do it not only by winning the state championship, but doing well in the community and classroom.
“Today is a special day because these seniors are going to have a memory of a lifetime.”
Definitely. These Beavers claimed the school’s second straight Class AA state title, matching the 1995-96 teams that also won consecutive state titles on the hardwood under head coach Danny Gaither, who was in Charleston on Saturday to see the game.
“Danny is a great coach and a great person, he had some great teams,” Large said. “I hope down the road when people look at Bluefield High School they will say we are one of the great teams and we had some great players too because you are history now.
“When they put that picture up in the hallway at Bluefield High School, hopefully you will stay up there for a lifetime. It is going to be a great lifetime memory.”
Championships can be hard to come by. Bluefield had been back in the finals five times after the ‘96 season and lost each time, but these Beavers were not denied. They lost to Tug Valley in the championship in 2012, but won the next two by a combined 45 points, defeating Fairmont State by 20 points last March and the Eagles by 25 a year later.
“A great legacy,” Bluefield senior Anthony Eades said. “Not too many people can say that, go to the state championship three times in a row and back-to-back state champions. Not many people can say that,”
There was little doubt after the opening three minutes that this championship was coming back to Bluefield. The Beavers took a 13-0 lead, and wound up building the margin to 25-4 after the opening period.
From there, it was a matter of finishing it off, which the Beavers did, much to the delight of a large gathering of fans who made the trip up Interstate 77 to Charleston. They took photos of the players, not only receiving their awards after the game, but also gathered around as the net on one side of the court was cut down.
Large, when he wasn’t climbing the ladder to take his turn with the scissors, stood back and took in the scene.
“You get a bunch of kids that care about each other, not only on the hardcourt, but in school and in the community,” Large said. “They enjoy themselves, they have shown what hard work is all about. They just show that when you put goals in life and you get out and set examples and you work hard, what can be accomplished.”
No one will miss the Bluefield seniors more than Large, who took over the program six years ago, and, combined with the efforts of assistants Tony Webster, Don Jones and David Hubbard, led the Beavers to two state titles and three state championship games.
“They have made my life wonderful the last four years, I don’t want to let them go,” Large said. “They are just outstanding young men to coach, not only that, they are just good kids and good student-athletes. They apply themselves not only on the hardwood, but they apply themselves in school and they try to do a lot of good things in the community.
“When you have got that kind of thing going in your program a lot of good things are going to happen. I just can’t say enough about these young men, today is going to be a very special day for me the rest of my life and theirs too.”
Bluefield had entered the last two state tournaments as the top seed, but were third when the seedings were announced last Friday. They left no doubt who was best, winning three games by a combined 70 points.
“We emphasize the team concept, these kids know what we expect, that is why they have been so successful throughout their four-year career,” Large said. “They are outstanding basketball players, they are also great student-athletes, and I cannot ask for a greater opportunity than to be able the last four years to be the head coach.
“I am so proud of them, our assistant coaches, I am so proud of them. They have played in three state championship games and to come back and defend this title and win it when I think a lot of people doubted us.
“There is no doubt today, because these guys are 2013-14 state champions.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org