Gallery by Tina Laney
Fairlea – The confines of Spartan gym have rarely been kind to the Beckley boys basketball team over the years.
For one quarter Friday night in the season opener for the Flying Eagles and longtime rival Greenbrier East, it once again looked like Beckley was in for a fight to the finish.
Elijah Redfern thought differently.
Scoring 24 points, 11 in the decisive third quarter, the senior all-stater guided the Flying to a 64-38 win over the Spartans.
“Anytime you are playing a rival (in front of) a nice crowd, (maybe) not as big as it used to be, but a nice crowd, and get a win it is pleasing,” Beckley head coach Ron Kidd said.
Although it was sporting a very young and inexperienced varsity team to open the season, Greenbrier East still jumped out to a nine-point lead after one quarter.
“It wasn’t Beckley basketball,” Kidd said about the first eight minutes of action. “It was like we were back on our heels instead of being excited about playing somebody different. We should have been excited and I will take the blame for that.”
Trailing 7-5, the Spartans outscored the Flying Eagles 14-3 over the final 4:38 of the quarter for a 19-10 cushion.
“I am proud of these guys and I am proud of how they competed. We can do it, but we have to put it together. This was the first varsity game for nine of the 10 varsity players that I have,” Greenbrier East head coach Jared Patton said. “We moved the ball well and we were attacking gaps. Defensively, we were moving and the rebounding was pretty close there in the first half. We have a positive (to build on) and the positive is the first quarter.”
To open the second stanza, Beckley went to a smaller line-up and ran off nine straight in just over two minutes to tie the game at 19-19.
Sophomore Preston Clary came off the bench to score five points in the spurt including the tying 3-pointer.
“I have been working so hard since last year after I couldn’t play because of my foot injury,” Clary said. “I really wanted to get back out on the court and show everybody that I could play. I wanted to bring energy and defensive intensity. I am glad I got to prove myself tonight.”
Kidd talked about the lineup change and Clary’s spark for the Flying Eagles.
“We did that because (Greenbrier East) was in that zone and we needed another guy to shoot outside or shoot the gaps and make something happen. Preston hit that 3 and it kind of changed things up for us,” Kidd said. “I thought (Preston) played great. He can play any position, a point guard, a two or a three, and our five position. He never complains about anywhere we put him at on the floor.”
For Patton, it was more about the breakdowns by his team that led to the Beckley spurt.
“I don”t really focus tremendously on what they are doing,” Patton said. “I am focused on what we are doing and what we are not doing. In the second quarter, ball movement stopped. We started dribbling too much and people quit cutting with a purpose.”
“The next thing you know, turnovers are starting to add up,” Patton went on to say. “It was all about ball movement. We have to have good ball movement, good crisp passes, good cuts and good drives. From the second quarter on it kind of stalled on us. We got a little dribble happy.”
Greenbrier East regained the lead at 23-21 with 2:18 left in the half before a put-back from Drew Fitzwater and a strong take to the rim by Redfern gave Beckley a 25-23 lead at halftime.
The two teams then traded buckets to open the third quarter, but over the next six minutes, Redfern made big things happen for the Flying Eagles.
“The jumpers definitely weren’t falling and I wasn’t really getting the calls going to the basket. The first half was not the best I could play. I knew I had to come out fighting and play stronger in the second half,” Redfern said. “We hadn’t played our best half of basketball for sure, so we had to come out in the second half and fight. I think we did that. I think our mindset coming out was to try and end the game.”
Redfern scored nine straight points before a put-back from Layne Lambert pulled East back inside the double-digit deficit.
Redfern was not done and his constant attack at the rim started to create gaps.
After another driving score, the senior standout found Coby Dillon for a dagger 3-ball and backed that up with a deep pass to Zyon Hawthorne for a 45-27 lead with under a minute left in the quarter.
“Once I saw I wasn’t going to get the calls I knew I had to be strong and go through the contact,” Redfern said. “That is one of the reasons that I stay in the weight room. I have to go through the contact and if I get the call, I get the call. If not, I have to finish.”
Along with his big night scoring, Redfern had 10 assists and five rebounds to lead his team.
“I think he can be a triple-double guy,” Kidd said. “I don’t know how many rebounds he had, but we want him to have a double-double with rebounds and assists.”
Patton admitted stopping Redfern was a handful, but felt the youth of his team also showed in that regard.
“Redfern is tough. He has to be one of the best guards in the state. We knew it would be a challenge, but that was on us again,” Patton said. “Our defensive rotations weren’t where they needed to be. We gave up a lot of easy layups.”
Next up for Beckley will be trip to Morgantown next week where the Flying Eagles will play University and top-ranked Morgantown.
The game against the Mohigans will also be a clash between standout guard and Player of the Year candidate Sharron Young and Redfern.
“Sharron is one of my good friends and I feel like I am prepared for it,” Redfern said. “I feel like it will be a good matchup and I have been looking forward to it for the last two years since I was told we were playing in the tournament.”
Redfern is now 20th on the all-time scoring list at Beckley passing Bob Davis (1950-52) Friday night. The talented senior needs just 20 points to break 1,000 points for his career.
B: 10 15 20 19 – 64
GE: 19 4 4 11 – 38
Zyon Hawthorne 6, Coby Dillon 7, Elijah Redfern 24, Nazir King 1, Preston Clary 3, Jaylon Walton 8, Braylon Mickey 2, Drew Fitzwater 4, Philip Law 6. Totals: 28 5-11 64.
Brody Hamric 12, Peyton Dehaven 6, Nathan Dixon 6, Reed McGraw 2, Gabe Patton 6, Layne Lambert 4, Braylen Godfrey 2. Totals: 13 11-15 38
3-pointers – B 3 (Dillon, Redfern, Clary); GE 1 (Patton)