Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

December 12, 2013

Tigers host Beavers in season-opening match up

BLUEFIELD — It’s one of the biggest basketball games of the season and it comes on opening night as the defending West Virginia Class AA state champion Bluefield Beavers board the buses and head east on Route 460 to take on Class AAA Mercer County rivals, the Princeton Tigers.

Tip-off of the varsity game is scheduled for 7:30 and if recent games are any indication, fans should arrive early as seats will be at a premium for this contest.

While Bluefield won the state championship last season and finished as runner-up two years ago, the Tigers have won the last three meetings between the teams. The only regular-season loss the Beavers suffered in 2011-12 was at Princeton. Last year the Tigers took the game on the Ralph Ball Court and on the Bluefield’s home floor at the Brushfork Armory.

Tigers coach Ernie Gilliard, who at one time guided the Beavers, leading them to four state tournament appearances including a runner-up position in the 2005-06 season spoke of the recent success Princeton has had against its cross-county rival.

“No. 1, you’ve got to take care of the basketball. It’s as simple as that,” Gilliard said. “I was blessed the last couple of years with some very talented and hard-working young men. Those guys have left the blueprint for these kids to follow. The question is, are they willing to buy into that and commit to that? We will get an indication of that tonight.”

Princeton has the size advantage and Gilliard will start 6’5 senior Zen Clements and 6’8 junior Aaron Ferguson in the post positions. Austin O’Dell will run the point while  Jay Palmer and Logan McKinney will hold down guard positions. Look for Colton Fix, Mason Kroll, Aaron Porterfield and Ian Southcott to come off the bench for the Tigers.

“People have been talking about this game for the last two or three weeks,” said Bluefield head coach Buster Large. “It’s huge for both schools, it’s huge for both communities, a lot of bragging rights are on the line. I have a lot of respect for their program and I think they have a lot of respect for our program.”

The Beavers return all five of its starters from last season’s championship run. Lykel Collier will play the point with Anthony Eades and Michael Yost on the wings. D.J. Edwards and Corey Coppola are the post players. Coming off the bench will be Jordan Ponder, Matthew Woodrum and Dakoda Smalls.

“There are no easy games on our schedule, if you will,” Gilliard said. “Bluefield may well be the best team in any class this year in the WVSSAC.”

Large concluded, “I think it’s going to be a great high school basketball game.”

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