By CAM HUFFMAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
After beating Robert C. Byrd Saturday in the Class AA finals at the Big Atlantic Classic, Bluefield players met at halfcourt to accept the team trophy.
If the results this week at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center are any indication, the Beavers better get used to holding the hardware.
The No. 1 team in Class AA more than lived up to its reputation, downing No. 8 Westside 67-54 on Monday and then finishing off No. 5 Robert C. Byrd 72-56 Saturday in a game that wasn’t even that close.
“That’s what the plan was,” said junior guard Anthony Eades, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “Robert C. Byrd was a pretty good team, but the coaches prepared us well.
“It was a great environment, and it was fun to get two wins. Hopefully we can do it again in March. That’s the main goal.”
The Beavers (13-1), who have won 10 straight since their only loss to Class AAA rival Princeton early in the season, wasted little time asserting their dominance against the Eagles (10-4), who upset No. 2 Wyoming East to get to the finals. Bluefield jumped out to a 17-8 lead and extending that advantage to 28-15 by the end of a fast-paced opening quarter.
Realizing they had no chance of running with Bluefield, the Eagles did their best to slow the pace, keeping the Beavers from completely putting the game away, but it still didn’t matter much.
By halftime, Eades already had 12 points and Bluefield was up 42-30.
The third quarter took on an even slower pace, but the Beavers were plenty content to play defense and take the offense that the Eagles gave them.
“They slowed us down some, but we were still able to execute,” said Bluefield head coach Buster Large. “There were some great teams here, and we were really happy with the way our team played.
“Our defense has gotten so much better, and we got solid play off the bench.”
Robert C. Byrd scored just 11 points in the third quarter, and with Bluefield leading 55-40 with eight minutes on the clock, the only question left was the final score.
Bluefield stretched its lead as large as 20, 69-49, and watched as the seconds ticked away on a convincing 16-point victory.
Aside from Eades’ big numbers, point guard Lykel Collier scored nine points and dished out 11 assists, feeding the ball to the Beavers’ top scorers.
David Edwards finished with 12 points and four rebounds, and Dakoda Smalls came off the bench for nine points and eight boards.
“We played really good defense,” said Eades. “We did well in our man-to-man and when we fell back into a zone, rebounds and steals led to our offense.”
Finding a weakness from the Beavers was like trying to find a missed note in a Carrie Underwood performance. Blue-field won the battle of the boards 34-23, forced Robert C. Byrd into 15 turnovers, shot 55.3 percent from the field and knocked down 5 of 12 3-point attempts.
“There’s always areas where you can get better,” said Large, before laughing and explaining that he didn’t want to say what they were. “We’re just trying to stay sharp.”
Robert C. Byrd tried to keep pace with 12 points from Nick Dyer and 13 from Justin Noble, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Despite forcing 18 turnovers and shooting nearly 45 percent, the Eagles never really threatened.
The Beavers’ 13 wins have come by an average of 21.75 points, and just two — at Scott and at Oak Hill — were under double-digits.
Perhaps the biggest worry for Bluefield now is finding a way to keep its intensity and play at a high level for the next month.
But Large promised he’s not going to allow his team let up.
“We work extremely hard in practice,” he said. “Our coaches aren’t going to let that happen.”
Next up for Bluefield is a home game against Summers County on Tuesday, followed by a makeup game at home against River View on Thursday and a trip to Fairlea to take on Greenbrier East on Friday.
“That will be two really good teams against each other,” said Large of the looming showdown with the Class AAA No. 4 Spartans. “We’re going to have a lot of wins between us.”
Robert C. Byrd will attempt to bounce back Tuesday at Fairmont Senior.
Cam Huffman is sports editor of The Register-Herald. E-mail him at email@example.com
At Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center
ROBERT C. BYRD (10-4)
Iziah Hill 2 0-1 4, Kevin Steele 2 1-2 6, Nick Dyer 5 0-0 12, Devonti Birch 3 3-3 9, Justin Noble 5 3-5 13, Alex Banko 0 0-0 0, Ronnie Fox 1 0-0 2, Julian Malfregeot 1 1-4 3, Luke Dyer 2 0-0 5, Devin Langford 1 0-0 2, Chaz Rodeheaver 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 8-15 56.
David Edwards 4 4-7 12, Anthony Eades 7 3-3 20, Lykel Collier 3 2-2 9, Michael Yost 6 3-3 15, Corey Coppola 4 1-4 9, Dakoda Smalls 0 0-0 0, Brandon Lilly 0 0-0 0, Trevor Mullins 1 1-2 3, Jordan Ponder 1 0-0 3, David Woodrum 0 0-0 0, Matthew Woodrum 0 1-2 1, Douglas Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 15-23 72.
R.C. Byrd........15 15 11 15 — 56
Bluefield..........28 14 12 18 — 72
3-point goals — RCB: 4 (Nick Dyer 2, Steele, Luke Dyer); B: 5 (Eades 3, Collier, Ponder). Fouled out — none.