By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GREEN VALLEY —
The girls basketball program at Richlands and the boys at Bluefield the past two seasons have ventured deep into postseason play. The Richlands girls this year made it to the Virginia Division 3 semifinals in Richmond, while for the Bluefield boys played for and captured the West Virginia Class AA state championship. To accomplish those fetes a squad needs great athletes, excellent teamwork and the steady leadership of the head coach and staff.
Tuesday night at the Princeton Elks the Pocahontas Coal Association and Bluefield Daily Telegraph honored Dennis Palmer of Richlands and Buster Large of Bluefield, as girls and boys Coach of the Year.
Palmer, in his second season at the helm, helped guide the Lady Blue Tornado to a 22-5 record and their second straight state tournament appearance. The Lady Blues captured the Southwest District championship, Region IV title before falling in the semifinals in Richmond to Brunswick.
In his acceptance remarks, Palmer thanked the Coal Association, the Daily Telegraph, his assistant coach Ronnie Davis and said, “...you’ve got to have good players, I don’t do a whole lot.”
After the banquet Palmer expanded on his comments from the podium.
“I’m really honored to get this award and I really don’t do a lot,” Palmer said. “We’ve got a great group of girls. They work hard. I ask them to do a lot in the off-season and they really work hard at it. We just got back from playing this past weekend, so we haven’t taken a whole lot of time off since the state semifinals, but they know what it takes to get to that level and I think we have established in the last couple of years that we can get to that level.”
The Blues lose three starters to graduation, Cassidy Richardson, Rachel Alley and McKenley Davis, but Palmer believes Richlands will remain a force in girls basketball.
“All of those are very good players and they are going to be sorely missed and hard to replace, but that’s why we are out doing it (off-season work) now, to get some of these young girls experience playing some AAU ball and against some better competition,” Palmer pointed out. “We’ve got Brittany coming back and if you’ve got Brittany Allen out there, you’ve got a chance to win every game you’re in. She’s that good.”
Allen was honored at the banquet as a Player of the Week and was a finalist for Player of the Year.
With a restructuring of Virginia schools taking place next year, Palmer isn’t worried about what the future may hold as far as the road to Richmond.
“We’ve been playing with Carroll County for the last few years and I don’t know if they get any tougher than Carroll County,” Palmer said. “They play great defense year-in, year-out and they are fundamentally sound. They’ve owned the Southwest District for the last 15, 16 years until we were able to win it this year.
“It’s going to be a new format and it’s going to be interesting to see how everything works out. It’s going to be something new for the girls.”
Large is the boys Coach of the Year for the second straight season. Last year Bluefield advanced to the state championship game, but fell to Tug Valley.
This year the Beavers finished 25-3, capping the campaign with a 63-43 win over Fairmont Senior in the Class AA title game. Large was quick to give credit to the coaching staff at Bluefield High.
“It’s a team thing with my coaching staff. Tony Webster, Don Jones, David Hubbard, we are all in this together,” Large explained. “We’ve worked extremely hard not only during the winter, but all off-season. If you’re going to do this program right, it’s basically a 12-month job. I’m extremely proud of the job they do.”
Large said one thing that has happened during his tenure at BHS is the team is more fundamentally sound than when he took over.
“I think that (fundamentals) is the biggest thing we worked on, that and getting back into the weight room and getting back into the summer camps. We’ve been everywhere and we will continue,” Large said. “That’s the only way we can get better and keep our game at a very high level. I’m very proud of the way we’ve got the program strong again.”
In addition to Large, two of his players, Anthony Eades and Lykel Collier were honored as Players of the Week and Eades was awarded the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year award. Large talked about the honors the players have received this season.
“I am very proud to have Lykel Collier, Anthony Eades and Michael Yost All-State players,” Large said. “I think it’s a huge tribute to Bluefield High School having two kids in the last two years, Lykel Collier and Anthony Eades, being Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year.”
With all five starters returning Large commented on the target that will be on the Beavers in the 2013-14 season.
“I don’t think there can be much more of a target than what we had this year,” Large said. “We took everybody’s best shot, went undefeated in Class AA, lost to two AAA opponents. It’s great to have experience and I think that experience will help us have a good year next year. It’s a great feeling. We’re going to lose two seniors, Aaron Miller and David Woodrum. Having 22 out of 24 JV and varsity players back is going to be special.”
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org