By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
There is little doubt that Bluefield has the guards to compete at the state level. Their big players are determined to do their share too.
They did on Monday night.
“Our posts were struggling at the beginning of the season and our guards were playing really good,” Bluefield sophomore center Corey Coppola said. “We needed to step up to play with them so we could become a better team.”
Coppola contributed 12 points, seven steals and four rebounds and D.J. Edwards added 12 points and seven boards, as four Bluefield “bigs” combined for 36 points, and the Class AA top-ranked Beavers rebounded from a rare loss with an impressive 94-67 win over Scott on Monday night at the Brushfork Armory.
“I am very pleased with where we are at right now,” Bluefield head coach Buster Large said. “We have played a very challenging schedule and now it is getting down to where you have to get better or you will exit very early.”
The 6-foot-5 Matthew Woodrum added 10 points and David Woodrum had a basket of his own off the bench, all of which was noticed by Bluefield junior point guard Lykel Collier, whose 10 assists led to many of their baskets.
“It is helping a lot just knowing that they are getting to finish and it just makes the team better when they finish, even with the guards playing as high as we are right now,” Collier said. ‘The biggest thing is they are getting better and that is good, that is just making us a better team.”
Bluefield (16-2), which lost 65-49 on Friday at Greenbrier East, wasted little time jumping on the Skyhawks, forcing four early turnovers — including a pair of steals and two baskets by Coppola — and taking an 11-0 lead in the opening 1:55 before Scott ever took a shot.
“One of our keys to the game tonight was not to let them jump on us,” said Scott head coach Nick Cabell, whose Skyhawks lost 68-63 to the Beavers 18 day ago. “It seems like every team they play and they beat by a pretty good margin they jump on them early in the first quarter.
“We were able to stop that at Scott, but tonight their shooting just took off and it was 11-0 before we could blink.”
Anthony Eades led Bluefield with 21 points, while Michael Yost added 18 and Collier contributed 13. Reserve guard Jordan Ponder had seven assists. All 10 Beavers that played scored at least two points.
“This is big coming out after a tough loss to come back and get this win,” said Collier, whose Beavers made just 1 of 21 from 3-point range in the loss to Greenbrier East. “We needed this real bad, we just want to keep focus.
“We have got two weeks left and we are just trying to take one week at a time and win all of them and get ready for our sectional tournament.”
Scott, which was led by Matt Dolan, who followed a 28-point effort against the Beavers on Jan. 24 with 25 in this one, cut the lead to five, 13-8, on a 3 by Dolan. That was as close as the turnover-prone Skyhawks would get.
“We know they are a good team, they are ranked number one for a reason,” said Cabell, whose Skyhawks had 20 turnovers, including seven in the opening quarter. “When you don’t shoot it and you don’t take care of the basketball — that led to a lot of their points off turnovers — you are not going to win many ball games, especially against the number one team in the state.”
Bluefield followed with a 11-4 run to take a 12-point lead, and after Scott cut the margin to 40-31, the Beavers took a 43-32 lead, shooting 18 for 33 (54.4 percent) before the break.
“I was very disappointed Friday (against Greenbrier East), not with our effort, but with our shooting,” Large said. “We would have been in that ball game Friday had we not shot so poorly. That is one of the poorest shooting nights that I have ever witnessed, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall, that is why you practice every day.”
Scott, which is 3-8 after starting the season at 8-0, was able to trim the lead to 43-36, but Yost’s eight points in the third helped the Beavers push the lead 20 before settling for an 18-point lead, 71-53, going into the final period.
Bluefield threatened the 100-point mark, but settled for 94, building the lead to 30, at 88-58, with 3:32 left in the game.
“Whenever we play a complete game it is going to be pretty tough to beat us,” Collier said. “When the guards play and the bigs play, but mainly we just have to get better on defense.”
Those ‘bigs’ have improved. Princeton’s ‘bigs’ had their way with the Beavers inside early in the season, but Coppola said that loss served as motivation for them to continue to improve, and Large has seen it begin to pay dividends.
“That is our goal, all along when we started in the first week of November, I said I wanted to get better,” Large said. “It was going to be a very challenging year with the schedule that we had and we did that for a reason.
“I think it is starting to pay off. I think anyone that saw us at the beginning of the year is starting to see some things we have improved on, but we have got to keep working.”
Bluefield has just four regular season games remaining, beginning tonight with Oak Hill, which is just 3-11, but lost by two against the Beavers on Jan. 4.
“Don’t count them out, they have got a lot of tradition,” Large said. “They were defending state champions, two years in a row back to back, so hopefully we will come back out and get after it just like we did tonight.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Brushfork Armory
Eric May 7 1-2 17, Matt Dolan 7 9-11 25, Logan Webb 1 4-6 6, Cody Brown 1 0-0 2, Anthony Sigmon 6 0-2 12, Nick Kuhn 0 1-2 1, Dylyn Brown 2 0-0 4, Kirk Price 0 0-0 0, Nick Dolan 0 0-0 0, Brandon LaFauci 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 15-23 67.
D.J. Edwards 5 2-4 12, Anthony Eades 9 2-3 21, Lykel Collier 5 1-2 13, Michael Yost 7 1-2 18, Corey Coppola 6 0-0 12, Dakota Smalls 1 0-0 2, Jordan Ponder 1 0-0 2, David Woodrum 1 0-0 2, Matthew Woodrum 4 2-2 10, Aaron Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals 40 8-13 94.
Scott............12 20 23 12 — 67
Bluefield......22 21 28 23 — 94
3-point goals: SC 4 (May 2, M.Dolan 2); BF 6 (Yost 3, Collier 2, Eades 1). Total fouls: 15; BF 18. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none. JV—Scott 92 (Nick Dolan 27, Dylyn Brown 20, Kirk Price 15); Bluefield 85 (Trevor Mullins 25, Jordan Ponder 17, Raheem Reid 11, overtime).