For the third straight season the Bluefield Beavers are headed to the West Virginia Class AA state tournament.
The defending state champions punched their ticket to next week’s dance with a 77-67 win over the Wyoming East Warriors in the Region III co-championship game before a jam-packed Brushfork Armory.
Anthony Eades, Lykel Collier, D.J. Edwards and Michael Yost, all seniors playing in their final home game, stepped to the fore in different ways to help lead Bluefield to victory.
Eades fired in 30 points, Collier scored 21, Edwards added 12 with six rebounds three assists and two steals, and Yost held Wyoming East’s top scorer to one field goal before fouling out in the last minute of action.
“I am so happy for this senior bunch, the entire team, this coaching staff and the Bluefield fans,” said Beavers head coach Buster Large. “It’s the most fans I’ve ever seen at a game here — Beaver supporters. We are so happy to get back to Charleston. Now we get a chance to bring another one (championship) home.”
It took two-and-a-half minutes for the ball to go through the hoop and East’s Austin Canada drained a three to put the Warriors ahead. Bluefield went ahead on an Eades three and a Yost put-back, only to later see East take the lead by three on two Ta’Ron Ayers free throws.
Collier’s three with just a second left before the buzzer sounded drew the Beavers even at 12 as the first quarter, a tough, physical quarter which saw Bluefield’s Eades to go the bench midway through the frame, came to a conclusion.
The Beavers got into foul trouble in the second and East went ahead by five on two different occasions, the last time on Christian Hedinger’s three-point play with 4:18 to play before half. Bluefield stormed back to retake the advantage on a Yost trey with 2 minutes on the clock and Collier dropped in two free throws with just under five seconds to go to give the home team a 30-27 halftime lead.
Both teams slowed the pace to start the third quarter, turning to their half-court offenses. An Eades jumper gave Bluefield its largest margin to date, five points, but the Warriors charged back and Jordan Hayes’ jumper in the lane tied the game at 34. The lead went back and forth with a couple of ties before Bluefield carried a 46-44 lead into the start of the final stanza, thanks to an Edwards three-point-play the old-fashioned way with 0.4 on the third quarter clock.
East pulled to within one in the first 30 seconds of the final quarter on Canada’s fourth three of the game, but it would be as close as the Warriors would get. Bluefield slowly expanded its lead and it reached 11, 58-47 on another Edwards three-point play with just over five minutes to play in the game.
The final three minutes of the game saw both teams score the majority of their points from the free throw line and Bluefield celebrated another regional championship when the final buzzer sounded.
Canada and Hedinger both scored 17 to lead Wyoming East, and volatile point guard Ayers scored 15, 13 from the free throw line as the Bluefield defense held him to two baskets from the field.
“We get out there and they said I’ve got Ayers,” Yost said. “So I knew I had to come in and play my best defense. I tried my best, tried to keep him out of the lane and three point range because he can really shoot it. It was a team thing. We did it for the fans, for the community and for Bluefield High School.”
Lykel Collier said, “Our game plan coming in was to throw a lot of different defenses at them. We did that and they really didn’t adapt.”
Large said of his team’s defensive effort, “Give (assistant coaches) Tony Webster, Don Jones and Dave Hubbard credit. They worked extremely hard the last three days designing something to get this done.”
Wyoming East finishes its season with a 17-6 record and three of those losses coming to Bluefield. Head coach Rory Chapman spoke of what he thought was the turning point in the game.
“At the start of the fourth quarter they (Bluefield) got a couple of lucky bounces,” he said. “One went off a knee, goes right to Eades and he knocks down the shot. When those things happen... Eades was good all night long though.
Speaking of the Warriors this season, Chapman surmised, “I felt like we got better all season long. These guys came together as a team. Bluefield has got a good team, Westside has got a good team, we’ve got a good team. I just hate that we can’t be up there.”
Large talked about the sluggish start of the Beavers and the fact that the team has qualified for the state tournament for the third consecutive year.
“We were a little too nervous in the first quarter,” Large said. “This was a huge game for both squads. We knew that we had to play one of our finest games to advance.
“Give Wyoming East credit. They came to play. They’ve got a great program, always have. I’m just so happy for these kids, Bluefield High School, the City of Bluefield and all these beautiful fans. They were great.”
Seedings and pairings for Class AA will be announced Friday morning and Bluefield will play next Wednesday in the state quarterfinals.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org
At Brushfork Armory
WYOMING EAST (17-6)
Jacob Dulcie 0 0-0 0, Austin Canada 6 0-0 17, Ta’Ron Ayers 2 11-12 15, John Morgan 1 0-0 2, Logan Blankenship 0 0-0 0, Michael Hayworth 0 0-0 0, Christian Hedinger 5 5-8 17, Jordan Hayes 4 2-3 10, David Carte 2 0-0 4, Alec Lusk 0 2-2 2, Totals 22 20-25 67.
Dakoda Smalls 0 0-0 0, D. J. Edwards 4 4-6 12, Anthony Eades 7 14-14 30, Lykel Collier 6 8-10 21, Michael Yost 3 0-0 8, Jordan Ponder 0 0-0 0, Corey Coppola 3 0-0 6, Matthew Woodrum 0 0-0 0, Azir Price 0 0-0 0, Jordan Huckleberry 0 0-0 0, Totals 23 26-30 77.
Wyoming East................12 15 17 23 — 67
Bluefield..........................12 18 16 31 — 77
3-point goals: WE - 7 (Canada 5, Hedinger 2); BLF - 5 (Eades 2, Collier, Yost 2). Fouled out: WE - Canada; BLF - Yost