By J. DANIEL ROLLINS
for the Daily Telegraph
When the scoreboard read 2-0 in favor of Westside before its game with Bluefield Monday night even got started, it was obvious the opening round of the Big Atlantic Classic was going to have some drama.
Westside came back after a 10-day layoff and picked up the victory over No. 2 Bluefield, 62-57.
The game started in an unusual way with Will Fox converting a pair of free throws due to a technical foul on Bluefield’s Jordan Huckleberry for dunking during the pregame.
From there, the Renegades managed to control the majority of the game, never fully letting Bluefield (8-2) get control and walked away with a big-time victory.
“It’s a big win, ya know, anytime you beat a team as big as Bluefield, it’s a big win for your program,” Westside coach Nick Cook said. “I’m just proud of our guys. We had a good game plan going into tonight. We executed and came out with the win.”
Returning to the lineup for the Renegades was senior guard Corey Bowles, who saw his first action since injuring his knee Jan. 10 against Logan.
Bowles led the Renegades in scoring with 21 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, including six free throws with less than a minute remaining to put the game to bed.
It was quite the contrast from the opening half, in which Bowles shot 2-for-7 from the field.
“I was rusty at first,” Bowles said. “Coach just told me to keep shooting the ball and to keep doing what I do. It kept giving me confidence.”
Cook said, “In the end of the game, whenever the chips are down, I put my money on Corey Bowles every time to make those shots.”
Bowles wasn’t the only Renegade doing damage. Junior guard Justin Kenneda played like a junkyard dog, guarding Bluefield threat Anthony Eades and holding him to six points, despite giving up several inches to Eades.
The Beavers failed to gain momentum in the game, despite taking the lead several times down the stretch and having senior guard Lykel Collier finish with 22 points. Bluefield shot a meager 8 for 20 from the line and was outrebounded 45-32.
After the game, Bluefield coach Buster Large gave credit to Westside.
“It was a great high school game,” Large said. “Westside was better than us tonight. You know, we don’t make excuses. They came to play.”
The win for Westside (8-2) sets up a potential rematch with county rival Wyoming East, which defeated the Renegades in Clear Fork on Jan. 4.
The Warriors will take on Mount View in the other Class AA game at 7:25 p.m. today.
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Will Fox 4 2-6 10, Corey Bowles 5 8-8 21, Justin Kenneda 2 0-0 5, Levi Lambert 4 1-2 10, Justin Cogar 6 1-2 13, Larry Cook 1 0-0 3, Jordan Browning 0 0-0 0, Bryce Robinson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 12-18 62.
David Edwards 5 0-4 10, Anthony Eades 2 1-3 6, Lykel Collier 7 6-11 22, Jordan Ponder 5 0-0 14, Corey Coppola 1 0-0 2, Dakota Smalls 0 0-0 0, Matthew Woodrum 0 0-0 0, Azir Price 0 1-2 1, Jordan Huckleberry 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 8-20 57.
Westside.........................................16 13 14 19 — 62
Bluefield.........................................11 17 13 16 — 57
3-point goals — W 6 (Bowles 3, Kenneda, Lambert, Cook); B 7 (Ponder 4, Collier 2, Eades).