Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 22, 2014

Beavers going Eagle hunting

CHARLESTON — Their opponent in today’s Class AA state boys basketball championship didn’t seem to matter to the Bluefield Beavers late Friday morning.

After dispatching the Poca Dots 70-45 in another early-morning tourney game, the message from the Bluefield team was unified.

Head coach Buster Large said, “In our situation, it really doesn’t matter. Our goal was to be able to stay here this afternoon, and it happened.”

Four-year starter Lykel Collier said, “It doesn’t really matter who we play. We’re just happy to be back in the championship game again.”

Large continued to give credit to hard-working assistant coaches Tony Webster, Don Jones and David Hubbard, and to “outstanding senior leadership.”

“I just can’t say enough about what these seniors have done,” he said. “They’ve applied themselves and the hard work has really, really paid off.”

Large called Friday’s result “a great team win. Very happy for these seniors to get back to Championship Saturday. It’s a great feeling for Bluefield High School, the city of Bluefield and Mercer County schools.”

The Beavers’ third straight trip to the finals “means a lot to us,” Collier said. “We’ve worked so hard, since we were freshmen.”

Bluefield’s opponent was decided Friday afternoon when the Robert C. Byrd Flying Eagles beat the Westside Renegades 78-73 in overtime — with the Beavers watching.

Prior to that game, Collier said about the Eagles, “We really don’t know much about them. ... But to be undefeated in Double-A, they must be doing something good the whole season. They must be a tough team.”

“They gave us some problems in the semifinals last year, and they return most of their players. Either team (Byrd or Westside), it’s going to be a battle. We’re going to have to go out there and play 32 minutes.”

Last March, Bluefield kept the Eagles from scoring in an eight-minute stretch of the second half, taking a hard-fought 54-48 semifinal win.

Anthony Eades scored 15 points that night, while D.J. Edwards had 13 points. Collier and Michael Yost each had 10 points. Collier had seven assists and five steals.

Byrd’s Devonti Birch had 18 points in last year’s meeting with the Beavers. Birch had 16 points in Friday’s semifinal victory. Luke Dyer pitched in another 16, and Cameron Carvelli had 13 points — seven in overtime.

Collier said his team’s approach will not change regardless of the opponent.

“We just keep our same game plan the whole year,” he said. “Pressure teams, get out in transition, win the rebound battle, limit our turnovers to single digits, take smart shots and be aggressive.”

The Beavers were seeded third by tournament organizers. Now after topping No. 2 Poca, they are looking forward to facing top-seeded Robert C. Byrd High, from the Clarksburg area.

Large said his team was not interested in the seeding structure, but added, “We just knew that after winning this regional, that we had a chance to be in a situation where we could see everybody ahead of us, on a day-to-day basis, and it’s working out exactly the way we wanted it to.”

Collier wanted pre-tournament respect for the Beavers as the state’s defending champions, but said not getting the top seed “really wasn’t a factor.”

“We thought we would get some respect, but it really didn’t bother us. Just getting up here again made us happy.

“We didn’t care where we (were) at, we would just play whoever was in our way, one game at a time. We just did that for the first two games, and we just hope we can do that tomorrow (Saturday) at 12.”

Edwards said, “Coming in, we felt like we (were) the underdogs. Throughout the whole tournament a lot of people weren’t giving us a chance.

“But we had all of our starters coming back, so we just came in with a chip on our shoulder and tried to play each game, and try to win.”

One thing they expect is a big crowd of Beaver boosters under the Charleston Civic Center roof.

Large said on Friday, “We’re so happy with the turnout today, an extremely good crowd. We’re surely looking for a big turnout tomorrow.”

Edwards said, “The (Brushfork) Armory’s been packed all season, so we’re used to it. We like it. We feed off of it.”

The Beavers are already relishing their eighth trip to the state basketball finals.

“It’s going to be a great state Double-A championship tomorrow,” Large said. “We’ve got a big task. But the main thing is, the Bluefield Beavers will be here.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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