By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
One more win and the Bluefield Beavers will have attained their goal set just minutes after losing at the same point last season.
Bluefield (23-3) will face Fairmont Senior (21-6) in the Class AA state championship game today at the Charleston Civic Center. Tip-off is slated for 2:30 p.m.
These Beavers still remember the feeling of losing that occurred last year in a loss to Tug Valley.
“A lot of teams, they don’t get a second chance,” Bluefield junior Michael Yost said. “We are fortunate to come back again and get a second chance. I hope we can bring it back home this time.”
While Bluefield advanced with a strong second half defensive effort in a 54-48 win over Robert C. Byrd in Friday’s semifinals, the Polar Bears used a 22-10 second quarter advantage to pull away from Bridgeport 65-58, which followed a 55-48 decision against Scott in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Fairmont Senior last reached the state finals as a Class AAA school in 1996, defeating Robert C. Byrd 61-59 for the title. The Polar Bears’ other venture to that point in the season resulted in a 20-point loss to Woodrow Wilson in 1992.
Bluefield will make its seventh trip to the Class AA finals, winning it all in 1995 and ’96. They have been there four times since, but lost in ’97, ’99, 2006 and last year to Tug Valley 58-52.
Leading the David Retton-coached Polar Bears in two games has been 6-foot-1 Travon Horton and 6-foot Jarin Hilson, who had 19 points each in the win over Bridgeport, and that duo had 17 points apiece against Scott.
Hilson is 17 for 24 in two games from the charity stripe, and has also dished out 13 assists.
Shaquille Washington, a 6-3 senior, had 17 points and 12 rebounds against Bridgeport, and haunted the Skyhawks with eight points and 12 boards.
Their style of play will be very familiar to the Beavers. Both teams will have their running shoes on.
“They play the same kind of game we do,” Bluefield junior Lykel Collier said. “They like to run the floor and they like to press. We are going to have to play our game and not play their game.”
Robert C. Byrd lost twice this season to the Polar Bears, 65-60 and 47-46, and Eagles’ head coach Ben Bennett expects an entertaining contest to decide the state champion.
It should be a fun game to watch,” Bennett said. “Fairmont Senior is very athletic, and Bluefield is a great team as well. It should be a great game.”
Bluefield has won two games with defense. The Beavers are just 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the two games, and were 14-of-22 from the free throw line against Robert C. Byrd after making just 20-of-39 in the win over North Marion.
The Beavers have been led in two games by Eades with 30 points, along with 27 points, 18 assists and 10 steals by Eades. Edwards has contributed 26 points and 16 rebounds, while Yost has 14 points and 15 boards.
Bluefield is just 1-10 in its history against Fairmont Senior, but only one of those games has been played since 1952.
Other championships being decided today include the Class AAA affair between Woodrow Wilson and Martinsburg, and the Class A tilt between defending Class AA champion Tug Valley and Charleston Catholic.
— Contact Brian Woodson at email@example.com