By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Thursday was a rather late night for the Bluefield High School boys basketball team, and today was expected to start early.
Don't expect the Beavers to complain, though. They're in the Class AA semifinals of the 100th state basketball tournament.
With a sometimes erratic 62-51 win over South Marion behind them, the Bluefield players and coaches returned as a group to the Civic Center Coliseum shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday, to watch the last game of the day.
One of the teams on the floor, the Flying Eagles of Robert C. Byrd or the Tolsia Rebels, will be the next opponent for Bluefield (23-3), at 7:15 this evening. The winner of that game plays in the championship for Class AA at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Bluefield head coach Buster Large said as his team filed into the arena, “These are two outstanding teams, and one is going to survive tonight.”
“Tolsia likes to run a little bit more, they're a little like us, and Robert C. Byrd is as good as anyone in this year's tournament.”
The Flying Eagles from Clarksburg, seeded fourth in the tourney, arrived in Charleston 18-6. Bluefield defeated Byrd in their head-to-head meeting this year, 72-56 on Feb. 2, to win the Big Atlantic Classic championship in Beckley.
The Harrison County squad won seven straight games to get to the big dance since a two-point loss on Feb. 6. They defeated North Marion twice, 66-44 and 54-36 this season.
The Rebels' campus is in the Wayne County town of Fort Gay. The tournament's fifth seed, Tolsia had a 17-8 record after winning their last four straight games, in which they allowed an average of 38 points in winning their section and then the regional co-final.
Their 10-man roster includes eight seniors, and they fielded an all-senior starting lineup on Thursday night.
Whichever team the Beavers face, they will have a large body to account for.
Robert C. Byrd starts a 240-pound, 6-foot-4 sophomore center, Justin Noble, who still moves well for a big man. Tolsia countered with 6-foot-7 senior Austin Brewer.
Noble scored a team-high 13 points for the Flying Eagles in their Feb. 2 game with Bluefield. Anthony Eades countered with 20 points, nailing three of Bluefield's five three-pointers. Michael Yost had 15 points and D.J. Edwards had 12. The Beavers jumped out to a 28-15 lead and never looked back.
After that win, Eades told Cam Huffman of The Register-Herald, “Hopefully we can do it again in March. That’s the main goal.”
The Beavers expected an early wakeup call this morning, to get to a morning practice where free-throw shooting is expected to be a main emphasis. Bluefield made slightly more than half of their foul shots (20 for 39) in Thursday's win.
Meanwhile, the team they face will have less time to rest up after running the floor in a fast-paced Thursday night game. The Flying Eagles employed quick ball movement on offense similar to Bluefield and showed a discipline in their rebounding under the defensive boards. The Rebels were running, pushing the tempo and using their collective experience to get open for shots.
Bluefield's junior point guard, Lykel Collier, admitted there was a lot of room for better play by the Beavers after Thursday's quarterfinal win, but he noted, “We're one step closer to our goal, which is to win the state tournament.”
“The two teams playing (Thursday night), Byrd and Tolsia, either one of them will be a good matchup for us. We've got to come out and play tomorrow.”
– Contact Tom Bone