Gallery by Greg Barnett
Brushfork – It’s been nearly a month since Bluefield has found itself in the win column having played only two games over that span.
In the Beavers’ first home game of the year in the Brushfork Armory they righted the ship with a a statement victory.
Assisting on 11 of their 16 first-half field goals, the Beavers used efficient efforts on both sides of the ball to rout county rival Princeton 74-51 Tuesday night.
As impressive as the Beavers were on offense in the first half, hitting on 16 of 32 shots (50 percent), it was their defense that separated them from the Tigers.
They held Princeton to four points on 2 of 15 (13 percent) shooting in the second quarter. That spell came on the heels of an opening frame in which the Tigers hit on 7 of 11 shots (64 percent) and only turned the ball over twice.
It put Princeton in a hole it only dug deeper throughout the evening.
“It goes back to us,” Princeton head coach Robb Williams said. “We got lazy, stood around on offense and didn’t move the ball well and there wasn’t one coach that was on the bench that could figure out why. We tried a couple different lineups. I think 10 guys played in that opening quarter to try to change it up … We missed a couple easy layups. And you know, that kind of gets you a little bit and they started to really hit the boards. I could tell you from sitting where I was and the coaches, the boards were a big difference. Yeah, they’re very athletic, and we expected them to hit the boards, but we just played Huntington and we actually out-rebounded them, a team that was equally athletic and equally long. But tonight, you know, they just wanted those boards way, way more than we did.”
For the Beavers the performance was encouraging for a team with title aspirations, especially after inconsistent showings in their previous four contests.
“First thing comes to mind is that was the best game we’ve played for four quarters all year, and we’ve been really pushing that in practice and finally it happened today,” Bluefield head coach Buster Large said. “We finally got some good shooting, got some good rebounding and we got excellent defensive play. And that’s what we got to have here in the next three-to-five weeks to get better.”
On track for a shootout early, the teams went blow for blow throughout the opening frame, combining for 12 assists on 18 made field goals.
The hosts struck first when first-team all-state point guard Kam’Ron Gore found fellow all-stater R.J. Hairston for a layup. Britt Beasley responded with a 3 off an assist from Gavin Stover but Gore had the answer on the other end when Jase Smith found him wide open.
Beasley was true again from downtown the next time down the court but a pair of Hairston layups put the Beavers up 9-6 with Glen Keene assisting on both.
Nik Fleming responded with a layup the next time down the floor but a 3 and jumper from Gore on back-to-back possessions widened the gap at 14-8.
Princeton continued its charge to slash the deficit and did so at 16-15 but Gore again was online from downtown, sparking a 9-0 run. A quick layup from Koen Sartin and a one-handed 3 off a steal at the buzzer from Fleming gave the Tigers a spark heading into the second quarter.
It never caught.
While Bluefield’s offense slowed down its defense didn’t. A quick 7-0 run courtesy of two Hairston layups and a Jase Smith 3 pushed the lead to 12 before Princeton scored its first points of there frame courtesy of Beasley.
The next two didn’t come until the Tigers were down 36-22 with under a minute to play.
Adding to the first-half dominance Bluefield out-rebounded the visitors 20-10 with 10 of those coming on the offensive side of the ball.
“We were down 12 at the half,” Williams said. “We had some momentum, they had some momentum. Honestly, I felt good and not that we were going to come back and win that game or anything like that. But as you’ve both seen you know we have a lot of athletes and our bench is a little bit longer than their’s so our hope was we were close and we would be able to get to their bench. Not a lot of fouls called so they didn’t have to rest too many people due to foul trouble today and have to go that bench obviously. We weren’t able to get to that bench and if you can’t get there, their five starters, and I’ve known all summer, their five starters – you saw it. You know Kam’Ron and it’s tough with R.J. and Jase. Glen shot the ball pretty well from deep. They’re five, six deep and they’re good basketball players. We wanted to test the rest of their bench and we weren’t able to do that. Plain and simple.”
Princeton cut the deficit to 11 early in the third quarter but after Gore and Hairston did the heavy lifting in the first half Smith dragged the Tigers to the deep water, scoring 12 of his 17 points after the intermission. He combined with Gore (20) and Hairston (17) to lead the Beavers.
His layup and later a 3-pointer pushed the lead from 11 to 17 points at 46-29. The advantage never fell below 16 the rest of the way and swelled to as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter.
“We changed defenses,” Williams said. “We went with a box-and-one on Kam’Ron because he had two or three 3s against our zone, and I really didn’t want him to go crazy. We knew he and R.J. were their big scorers and Jase is a good scorer as well, but we kind of thought he would stay in the 10 to 12 range and tried to just lock those three down to kind of minimize them. We wouldn’t let the other guys beat us but unfortunately they just killed us on the boards. Offensively in the first half they had more offensive boards than we had total. And anytime you have a team that does that it’s hard to draw up any plays or any offense at all.”
Fleming was the lone Tiger in double figures with 10 points.
Princeton will travel to Beckley on Thursday in hopes of snapping a two-game skid while Bluefield will travel to Graham, Va. to avenge its first loss of the year.
P: 20 4 14 13 – 51
B: 25 11 23 15 – 74
Nick Fleming 10, Gavin Stover 9, Gavin Brown 9, Britt Beasley 9, Marquel Lowe 2, Brad Mossor 4, Reece Rhodes 2, Koen Sartin 2, Jayden Neely 4
Glen Keene 8, Jase Smith 17, Kam’Ron Gore 17, RJ Hairston 20, Jack Hurt 7, Greyson Parris 3, Ricky Dunford 2