By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Two years ago three freshmen basketball players worked their way into the Bluefield Beavers’ starting lineup midway through the season. That year the Beavers lost a disappointing game to Greenbrier West in the first round of sectional play.
Last season those three young men were starters on the Beavers team that advanced to the West Virginia Class AA championship game. The Beavers, however, came up short against a taller and more experienced Tug Valley team.
This year those three amigos are juniors looking to help lead their team back to the state tournament and this time they are more aware of what it takes to bring Bluefield its first state championship in basketball since the 1995-96 season.
Anthony Eades (6’3) led the Beavers in scoring last season, popping in more than 25 points a game. Lykel Collier (5’10) led the team in assists with 280 assists and averaged around 17 points a contest. Michael Yost (6’3) is a threat to score from behind the arc, posting up in the paint, or in transition, but Yost’s specialty is his defensive play. Together Eades, Collier and Yost provide a trio that will be tough to take on for schools in West Virginia.
“After that sectional loss (to Greenbrier West), we knew we had to get back in the gym, we had a lot of things to work on,” Collier said. “We got bigger and stronger for the upcoming season because we knew we had a lot of talent coming back and we wanted big things.”
That loss provided motivation for the Beavers last season and the team enjoyed the success in 2011-12.
“It was a great experience being up there and being able to play in the state tournament,” Eades said. “It’s now a new season and we’ve got to stay focused.”
Maintaining a level head and playing to the best of their ability will help Bluefield accomplish its goals for the upcoming season.
“You just have to take one game at a time, come in and practice every day, get better, and do whatever we have to do,” Yost said.
Emphasis, according to Collier, this season is on the defensive side of the court.
“The coaches are stressing defense,” Collier said. “If we get better on defense and rebounding, then we should be able to get back to Charleston.”
Bluefield lost big men K.J. Manns and Harley Trimble to graduation, both starters, but there is confidence that those taking over for the departed will play well.
“We’ve got some big guys and they’ve got a lot of potential,” Eades said. “ They’ve just got to keep working. It will be hard to fill Harley and K.J.’s shoes, but I think they can do it.”
The staple of the Beavers defense is their man-to-man play and Yost is oftentimes matched against the opposing team’s best offensive player. It’s something the sophomore likes.
“It feels pretty good. It’s sometimes a challenge, but I can’t let my team down. I’ve got to get the job done,” Yost said.
When asked the toughest players he faced last season Yost mentioned Chase Conner of Shady Spring and Jake Taylor from Tolsia.
On offense the Beavers can light it up with Eades, Collier and Yost all capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor.
“It all starts with Lykel, he runs such a good point,” Eades said.
Collier described how he approaches each offensive play.
“First I’m looking for the bigs,” Collier said. “I look for them first and if I can’t find them, I’ve got two good shooters. If they can’t get open, I will give it to the bigs. But mostly we’ve got shooters, we’ve got bigs, so we score a lot of points by just running the floor.”
And running the floor is the type of offense the trio unanimously agreed they preferred — the fast-paced action. When it comes to defensive style, however, they prefer a half-court game.
When asked what the key to this season would be, all three young men had a similar answer. Stay focused.
“We have to stay focused, that’s the main thing,” Yost said.
“Stay focused, we can’t get the big head,” Eades added.
Collier concluded, “Just be humble, take one game at a time, take every opponent just like the others and we should be fine this year.”
The Beavers open regular season play Tuesday, Dec. 11 when they host the PikeView Panthers at the Brushfork Armory.