BLUEFIELD — Buster Large is walking the proverbial tightrope in discussing this season’s Bluefield High School boys basketball team.
A young but battle-tested corps of Beavers will be back this week in the Charleston Coliseum (formerly the Civic Center), one of eight surviving Class AA schools to make the state tournament.
Realistically, few would consider these Beavers to be the favorites to win it all, but no coach will rule that out before the first game is even played. And the tournament is a precious opportunity any year you can make it.
“It’s been an unbelievable year,” Large said last week. “We’re really looking forward to it (the state tournament). And who knows? These kids may go up there and upset somebody. But the exposure is going to be huge on these young men.”
Bluefield (9-9), the No. 7 seed in Class AA, faces off against the fourth-seeded Poca Dots (11-4) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Large said about this season’s Beavers, “This team is going to be really, really good down the road. And I’m not going to say, ‘state championship’ — but that’s what we hope.”
“The next three years, Bluefield’s going to be back, back, back.”
At the end of March, the Beavers were 2-6, though four of those losses were to teams lodged in Class AAA and above.
“We’ve grown a lot,” said senior guard Logan Hyder last week. “We were rusty at first, we were struggling a little bit, and then we found our chemistry and now we’re on a roll.”
Bluefield showed tons of “grit” – to use their expression – in fighting back from behind in the fourth quarter last Thursday to defeat Liberty 51-41 to earn their repeat trip to Charleston.
That poise is a quantum leap from the start of the season.
“At one time (Thursday night), there were three ninth graders on the floor,” Large said. “We have a veteran coaching staff that has got these kids through this, and the kids responded well.”
“I’m very proud to be part of this, with Coach Tony Webster, Jody Fuller, Doug Miller, Jimmy ‘Fly’ Simon. We were all in this game together, we were all encouraging the kids.”
“There was some excitement at halftime,” Large said, beginning to fish for words to describe it. “I will say — some voices got a little bit high. But they responded in a (good) manner, and that’s what coaching is all about.”
It’s a microcosm of the Beavers’ season, which currently boasts a four-game winning streak.
Large said, “I’ll tell you what, I’m really looking forward to that trip up the Turnpike.”
Hyder offered an upbeat assessment of the Beavers’ maturation.
“I had to try to fill some big shoes last year,” he said. “It put a lot of weight on our shoulders at first. That’s why I feel like why we started off so bad, at first. But, hey, we got to pushing, and now we’re good.”