By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Bluefield Beavers, defending Class AA champions in the state of West Virginia, opened the 2013-14 season with a 71-47 win over Class AAA Mercer County rivals Princeton, before an overflow crowd at the Princeton High School gymnasium.
“A win is a win,” said Bluefield head coach Buster Large. “I’m very proud of how the kids played, a good effort. We got a lot of kids, with our foul situation, in and out. Give credit to them. They came over here, were very confident tonight. That’s a sign of a veteran team, which we have.”
Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard said, “The very things that I feared, they actually happened, us not taking care of the ball, not valuing the ball, us allowing their pressure to hurry us and force us into some bad decisions.”
More than 90 minutes before tip-off and prior to halftime of the junior varsity game, the parking lot was jammed and all but a few seats in the balcony section were claimed as Beaver faithful turned out to see if the team can begin another state tournament run, and the Princeton supporters looked for the school’s fourth consecutive win over Bluefield.
The Beavers wasted little time opening a 7-0 lead. Michael Yost’s three were the first points of the season, followed by to baskets by D.J. Edwards. Princeton’s first points were a three point play the old-fashioned way by post player Zen Clements.
The Beavers defense forced Princeton into numerous turnovers and denied the Tigers the outside shot.
Things got a little testy late in the first period when Yost was assessed a technical foul after there was some shoving by both teams near the Princeton basket. The festivities slowed down the action for a while, but in the quarter Yost dropped in 10 points, including two threes, while Edwards and Anthony Eades both scored six in the opening frame.
Princeton got 13 points from its big men, eight from Aaron Ferguson and six from Clements and only one basket from outside of the paint as Bluefield led 29-15 after one quarter of action.
The pace slowed in the second half as foul trouble began to set in especially for the Beavers. Both Yost and Matthew Woodrum sat with three fouls. Again Princeton struggled from the perimeter, but managed to make four baskets in the quarter including threes from Ian Southcott and Ashton O’Dell.
Eades had a hot hand for the Beavers in the quarter as he scored 10 in the period and helped push Bluefield to a 43-28 halftime lead.
Bluefield opened the third period with reserves on the floor. Jordan Ponder sparked the offense with seven points including a three, while Azir Price, Jeremy Thompson and Dakoda Smalls contributed to the defensive effort that held Princeton to two field goals, both in the paint by the Tigers big men.
Leading 57-33 opening the fourth quarter Bluefield’s starting five retook the court before Large, midway through the final stanza used reserves to close out the game and help the Beavers to the final 24 point margin of victory.
“We did a lot of thing right, but we missed some lay-ups, typical first game errors,” Large said. “But overall I’m very pleased with everyone. We’ll evaluate what we did and get better next week.”
Eades led Bluefield with a game-high 22 points and Yost added 13. Edwards led the Beavers with seven rebounds and Corey Coppola had four boards. Collier had five assists and three steals. Yost picked up four steals.
Princeton was led in scoring by Clements with 14 and Ferguson added 12. The Tigers managed to connect on only five baskets from outside of the paint in the contest.
“We work on our defense and we were swarming, a lot of quickness out here and I’m very happy to get the season underway and start off 1-0,” Large said. “It’s a good confidence builder going into Tuesday night.”
Bluefield returns to action Tuesday night in another rivalry game as it travels across the city-state line to take on the Graham G-Men.
“I think we can grow,” Gilliard said. “We’ve got some excellent teaching material. I think also we identified individuals that may be very consistent, might be the most consistent players that we have. We have to get some consistency on the floor.”
Princeton hosts Shady Spring, also on Tuesday.
At Ralph Ball Court
Dakoda Smalls 0 0-0 0, D.J. Edwards 4 0-1 8, Anthony Eades 8 5-5 22, Lykel Collier 1 2-6 4, Trevor Mullins 1 0-0 2, Michael Yost 5 0-0 13, Jordan Ponder 3 2-2 9, Azir Price 3 0-0 7, Corey Coppola 1 0-1 2, Matthew Woodrum 2 0-0 4, Jeremy Thompson 0 0-0 0, Totals 28 9-15 71.
Colton Fix 0 0-0 0, Arrien Porterfield 0 0-0 0, Ian Southcott 2 0-0 6, Mason Kroll 1 2-6 4, Jay Palmer 2 0-1 4, Michael Mills 0 0-0 0, Logan Angell 0 0-0 0, Zen Clements 4 6-7 14, Ashton O’Dell 2 0-0 5, Logan McKinney 1 0-0 2, Aaron Ferguson 4 4-5 12, Garrison Hartwell 0 0-0 0, Totals 16 12-19 47.
Bluefield...........................29 14 14 14 — 71
Princeton...........................15 13 5 14 — 47
3-point goals: Blu - 6 (Eades, Yost 3, Ponder, Price); Pri - 3 (Southcott 2, O’Dell).
Fouled out: Blu - Woodrum;, Pri - None.
Technical Fouls - Blu - Yost; Pri - None.