Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 31, 2013

2013 in review: A year of champions

Staff reports
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The championship. It’s what student-athletes and their coaches profess to want the minute practice starts for a new season.

There is no substitute for realizing that you and your teammates, or your own efforts in an individual sport, have taken on all competition, bested the best that the playoff system threw at you, and triumphed in that sport’s final encounter, when only the two teams in the state remained.

The 12 months ending today featured several celebrations at the pinnacle of accomplishment by teams and individuals from our region.

The tough task was organizing the list for 2013, a chronicle of seven state titles on the varsity or college level.

By definition, each sport is unique, and it is fruitless to debate the pecking order of which one is “better” than another, because everyone has his or her opinion, and most of those viewpoints have validity.

Also, some schools are larger than others and their athletes compete at a different postseason level, which is not to say that their students are any less talented.

As these pages have noted through the years, top talent from the smallest schools, given the right opportunity at the next level, can make a splash as stars in collegiate or professional sports.

In addition, the tradition of success into which some programs tap can be counter-balanced by the novelty of a first-time championship. Knowing that your trophy will always be the first one in the trophy case is as good a feeling as being part of a team that tapped into its institution’s heritage and matched the triumphs of years gone by.

The Daily Telegraph sports staff is pleased to offer this look at the year gone by, giving our readers one more chance to relive the significant memories of a year that included multiple championships, as well as bedrock changes in conferences and leagues that will affect competition for years to come.

1. Beavers win 3rd state hoops title.

The Bluefield High boys basketball team, known throughout the state for their superb play year-in and year-out, returned to the Charleston Civic Center in March and claimed their third state championship — and first since back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996.

Bluefield defended a No. 1 ranking for most of the regular season and swept through the sectional and regional levels. At the state tournament in March, the Beavers beat Fairmont Senior 63-43 to finish with a 25-3 record and the state championship trophy.

A trio of juniors, point guard Lykel Collier and forwards Anthony Eades and Michael Yost, led the way and earned all-state honors.

Eades was named the Pocahontas Coal Associa-tion-Bluefield Daily Tele-graph boys player of the year on March 26. Head coach Buster Large was honored as boys coach of the year at the annual banquet.

2. Giles wins state football title.

The Giles Spartans single-wing offense, linked with a rock-hard defense and talented special team unit, ran off a perfect 15-0 season in 2013 and ended it by celebrating with the Group 2A state championship trophy at Salem on Dec. 14.

Coach Jeff Williams’ team, backed by a large crowd of Spartan fans, went to overtime to defeat Brunswick 20-19 in a suspenseful conclusion that included a game-tying touchdown pass by Giles on the final play of regulation.

It was the fourth state crown for the Spartans, and their first since 2005.

3. Graham golfers shoot to title.

The Graham G-Men golf team claimed what is believed to be the first state golf championship in school history in mid-October, finishing seven shots ahead of Stonewall Jackson after being tied with them following day one of the two-day state meet.

Zach Toohey needed just two shots to sink his ball on the par-five ninth hole during the second round — a rare double eagle, coming amid the pressure of the final day of the state tourney. He was one stroke short of being the overall medalist for the tournament.

Ben Ramsey won the Region 2A-West individual title.

Toohey, Ramsey, and Richlands’ Zach Luttrell, who was playing as an individual at the state meet, earned all-state honors.

4. PikeView boys soccer wins first state title; girls fall in semifinals.

PikeView High’s boys soccer team earned the first state championship in the 19-year history of the school last month, using an air-tight defense to turn back East Fairmont 1-0. Isaac Van Blaricom provided the only goal with a header in the 64th minute, off a feed from Vaughn Campbell.

The Panthers, who finished 20-4-1, did not allow a goal in their two state tourney matches. Their goals-allowed average was 1.11 in the regular season.

Senior Alex Testerman was named captain of the Class AA-A all-state team selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. Midfielder Seth Wood and goalkeeper Austin Cordell joined him on the all-state first team.

PikeView’s girls soccer team was once again in the state tournament for the fourth time in five years, losing 2-1 in overtime to Bridgeport in the semifinals. Four of the school’s seven fall sports advanced to the state level in 2013.

5. Concord wins last WVIAC baseball title.

For the second time in three springs, Concord University conquered the baseball championship of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Concord’s 11-4 title game win over traditional rival West Virginia State on May 4 at Epling Stadium in Beckley was different, however — it was the final baseball game in the WVIAC, which disbanded on June 30.

The Mountain Lions finished 36-18, setting a new school mark for baseball wins in a season en route to its fifth WVIAC title. The CU offense was tops in the league. Devin Smith and Chris Baker combined to handle the pitching in the finale.

Concord advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament, taking 5-4 and 7-5 losses in the double-elimination format.

6. Bluefield State men’s tennis back in nationals.

The Bluefield State Big Blues tennis team made the NCAA Division II national tournament for the second year in a row, claiming the final WVIAC championship and the D-2 Atlantic Region crown in the process.

The Big Blues were 8-0 in conference play last spring. Bluefield State shut down Charleston 5-0 in the conference tournament title match in Charleston, then hosted Kutztown in the regional final, beating the Pennsylvanians 5-0 at the Bluefield City Courts.

BSC president Marsha Krotseng commented, “It shows the magic that happens when the players all work together toward common goals.”

At the national tournament in Arizona, Bluefield State dropped a 5-0 decision to powerful West Florida. The Big Blues finished 21-3.

7. Eldridge gives BHS first state wrestling crown.

Brandon Eldridge gave Bluefield High School its first state championship trophy in wrestling when he topped the field in the 160-pound class at the West Virginia prep wrestling meet, defeating Greenbrier West’s Marquis Frazier 7-3 in the finals on Feb. 23 in Huntington.

Eldridge finished 48-2. Teammates Julius Thomas and Shawn Pennington also reached the state level — the first time the Beavers attained that distinction since the program began in 2009.

8. Lovern/Bailey earn state doubles crown.

Bluefield High juniors Claire Bailey and Molly Lovern fought their way to the No. 2 doubles title in the state Class AA-A tennis tournament in Charleston in May.

The two rebounded from a 6-7 (6-8) setback to a pair from Charleston Catholic in their second set and finished the match with a 6-4 win — beating the same duo that had beaten them in the 2012 finals.

Bluefield’s Paul Hoffman and Tyler Myers took state runner-up at No. 3 doubles.

9. Virginia prep sports lurch into new playoff plan.

The academic year that began in August brought significant changes to prep sports in the state of Virginia. Districts now exist primarily for scheduling convenience in the regular season.

A series of conferences based on enrollment size has taken the place of district tournaments in the postseason, and championships will henceforth be awarded in classes 1A through 6A.

10. BSC finds new conference home

On the college level, Bluefield State College was left without a conference to call home when the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference ceased operations last summer.

The institution went the independent route for the fall semester as BSC officials sought a new league. On Dec. 12, the announcement came that Bluefield State had been accepted “immediately” as a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, or ECAC.

The BSC basketball teams and all its spring sports will be eligible for ECAC weekly and season honors, and the institution will continue to be a member of NCAA Division II, officials said.

Concord University made the transition last summer to a new conference, the Mountain East, that is composed primarily of former WVIAC institutions.

Honorable mention:

• The James Monroe softball team reached the state tournament for the second time in school history, and wound up state runner-up to Wayne in Class AA.

• The Princeton Senior High School golf team advanced again to the state tournament.

• The Princeton girls basketball team returned to the state tourney in Charleston, after which Debbie Ball announced her retirement as their coach after 33 years.

• The Bland County boys basketball team reached the state playoff level for the first time in 22 years, falling in the quarterfinals via a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

• The girls basketball team from Richlands reached the Division 3 semifinals for the second year in a row.

• Pipestem Christian Academy won the championship of the West Virginia Christian Education Association (WVCEA).