By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
For the Bluefield Beavers the next game they play will be the biggest game of the season.
Weather permitting the Beavers are to host the Wyoming East Warriors tonight for the West Virginia Class AA Region III co-championship at the Brushfork Armory. A win and the Beavers head to Charleston next week for what will then become the biggest game of their season.
Bluefield moved to the regional co-championship after defeating PikeView 92-50 in the Region III, Section 2 championship game. Wyoming East fell to Westside in the Region III, Section 1 championship game.
Beavers’ head coach Buster Large is hoping his team can maintain some of the momentum that they possessed in the game against PikeView.
“I hope we get a carry-over from Friday night, which I thought was the most complete game we’ve had all year,” Large said. “I give a tremendous amount of credit to Coach (Tony) Webster, Coach (Don) Jones, and Coach (David) Hubbard for what they’ve done throughout the season. They’ve been preparing these kids for the most important time of the year.
“We’ve had a great year. The schedule we’ve played and the toughness of our schedule should have us well-prepared for the regional and the possibility of earning a state berth.”
The Beavers (21-3) and Warriors are no strangers to each other as this will be their third meeting of the season. Their most recent encounter on Feb. 19 at the Armory, saw the Beavers come away with a 62-60 win on a basket in the waning seconds by D.J. Edwards.
In the teams’ first meeting of the year, Jan. 11 in New Richmond, the Beavers rolled to a 75-56 win.
Large believes his team must play better this time around against the Warriors.
“We’ve got to do a better job defensively,” Large said. “I really didn’t think we played that well of a game the second time. The first game we did a lot of things right. The second time I felt like we had some spots we needed to improve on.
“By no means am I taking anything from Wyoming East. They came up here to play and they gave us as good (a game) as anybody all season long has given us. I feel without a doubt we’ll have that same kind of game this time.”
The Warriors should not be taken lightly despite their 16-8 record. They have lost to No. 1 AA Bluefield twice, No. 2 AAA Woodrow Wilson twice, No. 4 AA Westside three times and top-10 AAA Robert C. Byrd.
Four of the last six seasons the Warriors have played in Charleston on Championship Saturday, so they are no strangers to important games or tough competition.
The Beavers will enter the game behind leading scorer Anthony Eades who is scoring at just over 20 points a game. Point guard Lykel Collier is scoring 15 points and dishing out more than eight assists a contest.
Michael Yost is the shut-down defensive player for Bluefield who also averages 12 points a game. D.J. Edwards has come on strong as the season progressed for the Beavers and he’s scoring at 12 points a game.
The fifth starter for Bluefield will be either Jordan Ponder, who had a career high 11 points including three treys in the sectional championship game against PikeView; Matthew Woodrum, who had a career-high 12 points against PikeView; David Woodrum, or Corey Coppola, who returned to action in the sectional championship game after suffering an ankle injury.
Wyoming East has a balanced attacked led by Josh Tunstalle and Christian Hedinger on the perimeter. Look for Brett Bowling to start in the post and Austin Canada and Cody Lester round out the probable starters for coach Rory Chapman.
Large and the Beavers are concentrating on one thing at this point of the season, playing the best ball they can and staying on task.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 3-19 or 24-0. If you are not focused, not ready to play, you exit the tournament,” Large said. “Just look at all the upsets last week. Take a team like the Greenbrier East girls who were 24-0 and got beat by an opponent on a hot streak.
“I guess that’s why they call it March Madness. Anything can happen. It’s an exciting time of year and you never know what is going to happen.”
Tip-off at the Brushfork Armory is scheduled, weather-permitting, for 7 p.m.