This shapes up to be a big week for Bluefield High School basketball. But when the Beavers arrived at James Monroe High on Tuesday evening, they put that out of their minds and hit the court with single-minded intensity and well-honed teamwork, defeating the Mavericks 70-49 in a meeting of sectional opponents.
Garrett Mann of James Monroe and Lykel Collier of Bluefield traded three-point goals to start the proceedings, and Bluefield forged ahead from there, taking an 18-9 lead at the end of the first period on David Edward's bucket from underneath.
Edwards said about the lively atmosphere in the Monroe County gym, "When you quiet the crowd, it's a lot easier to do what we've got to do."
The Mavericks worked a patient half-court offense and tried to limit the Beavers' possessions. Josh Ganoe provided a rim-rattling dunk with 1:04 remaining in the opening quarter to cut Bluefield's lead to 13-7, but Bluefield's David Woodrum answered with a quick trey.
James Monroe sank three field goals in the second quarter, and Bluefield pulled off five steals to feed an offense that produced a 44-15 halftime score. The final points came on a dunk by Michael Yost with 12 seconds remaining.
Bluefield coach Buster Large said, "I thought, the first half, we played as well, team-wise, as we've played all year. We were very unselfish, a lot of team play, and we were very fluid. We had a lot of movement."
James Monroe coach Jonathan McPherson said, "We were wanting to be a lot more patient on offense, and make sure we work for a good shot. I thought, to an extent, we did that pretty well in the first half ... . We thought as long as we limited the turnovers, and got the game pace the way that we wanted it, that we'd have a good chance."
The first half ended with 26 fouls called, and the Beavers got 13 of their points before the break at the foul line.
McPherson said, "It was definitely a physical game. ... I thought the refs took care of it pretty early, so it didn't get too far later in the game."
Mann provided several bright moments for the Mavericks in the second half. In a span of slightly more than three minutes, he knocked down a three-point shot, blocked a Bluefield attempt, stole the ball away, and finished by deftly slipping around a defender for a layup, producing a 50-24 score.
McPherson said, "He's been consistently producing for us all year. That's one thing a coach likes to see ... He's definitely helping us out on the offensive end."
Mann finished as the game-high scorer with 18 points. He said, "I was just trying to find the open guys. I don't want to be the guy that puts the ball up every time it touches his hands. ... This is just one of those nights."
Bluefield went almost three minutes without scoring a point after Anthony Eades stole the ball and turned it into a layup at the other end. He concluded the quarter with another layup, off an assist by point guard Lykel Collier, and the visitors led 54-26 going into the final stanza.
The lead grew to 34 points, 66-32 on another Eades layup, before the teams emptied their benches. Bluefield had several ineffective possessions late in the ballgame that allowed the home squad to cut into that lead.
McPherson said, "I think in the second half, we did play better."
Four Beavers earned double-figure scoring. Eades and Edwards each had 15 points. Yost was close behind with 12, and Collier converted three treys and finished with 11.
Micah Deskins played tough defense for James Monroe and added 11 points on offense.
Bluefield collected 25 field goals to 18 for their hosts, and went 16 for 25 in free throws. The Mavericks were 7-for-16 at the foul line.
Large said, "It was a really good game, and I'm pleased to win. Believe it or not, we're getting better in many phases that I and the assistant coaches have been working on in practice."
Large said, "We've got a very good relationship with James Monroe, and these are fine people. Their kids played hard. They've got a young team right now, and they're going to get better. And hopefully, we're going to get better. We're at the point in the season (in which) it's the teams that get better are the ones that will be favored to get out of the sectionals and into the regionals."
Large said, "We've been working really hard in practice. We've got to get better. This is one of the most challenging weeks of our season. We go to Wyoming East on Friday night, then we've got a day game on Saturday with Wheeling Park. That's a triple-A powerhouse and a double-A powerhouse. So we've got to get better -- each week."
Edwards said that when Tuesday's game started, "We weren't thinking about all of the games coming up. Now we'll start thinking about Wyoming East for Friday."
McPherson said, "We have Fort Chiswell (today). Regardless of these past scores, what I've been telling the kids is, 'Today's opportunities erases yesterday's failures.' That was kind of our quote before the game. ... The biggest game on the schedule is the next game. I'm trying to push for them to strive for better, each game."
—Contact Tom Bone
At James Monroe High School
D.J. Edwards 4 7-9 15, Anthony Eades 6 3-4 15, Lykel Collier 4 0-0 11, Michael Yost 5 2-4 12, David Woodrum 1 1-2 4, Corey Coppola 3 2-2 8, Matthew Woodrum 0 1-4 1, Aaron Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 16-25 70.
JAMES MONROE (3-7)
Micah Deskins 3 4-8 11, Chord Settle 1 1-4 3, Chastin Wickline 2 0-2 4, Preston Jones 1 0-0 2, E.T. Weiss 1 0-0 2, Landon Shires 1 0-0 3, Garrett Mann 7 0-0 18, Josh Ganoe 2 2-2 6. Totals 18 6-7 49.
Bluefield................18 26 10 16 — 70
James Monroe........9 6 11 23 — 49
Three-point goals -- BLU 4 (Collier 3, D. Woodrum 1); JM 6 (Deskins 1, Shires 1, Mann 4). Fouled out -- M. Woodrum.