Gallery by Greg Barnett
Brushfork – Less than 24 hours after meeting at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, Bluefield and Beckley renewed their rivalry on the home turf of the Beavers in the rescheduled Lil Tony Memorial Classic Saturday.
Having survived a late rally from the Beavers Friday, Beckley was hoping to finish the week and the season off with a sweep of its longtime nemesis on Saturday.
Instead the Flying Eagles looked like a team reeling on the second day of a back to back.
Beckley made just four field goals through the first 28 minutes of Saturday’s contest, falling 58-43.
Bluefield fared little better through the opening half, making just 8 of 28 shot attempts but held a small lead at 23-16 at halftime thanks to the visitors’ penchant for getting to the line. But the Beaver offense eventually found its groove well before the Flying Eagles found theirs.
“We played outstanding defense,” Bluefield head coach Buster Large said. “You know we played well last night, we came back from a 13-point lead and took the lead. And I think that momentum carried over to today and the kids, we struggled a little bit at first and then in the second half we got it together and blew them out.”
With both teams laboring through a first half in which neither shot above 30 percent from the field, a spark was desperately necessary.
Bluefield found one in the form of senior Glen Keene. Leading 24-18 over a minute into the second half, Keene nailed a 3 to make it 27-18. Beckley scored its only field goal of the frame when Elijah Redfern found Nazir King for a layup but Keene was good from deep the next time down the floor. And the time after that.
In all he hit 3s on three consecutive possessions, forcing Beckley head coach Ron Kidd to call a timeout with the lead ballooning to double figures at 33-20.
“I don’t know how he got that open to be honest with you,” Kidd said. “We know he can shoot and last night he proved that he could shoot. That’s bad defense on our part. That’s when they stretched it out. Keene hit some big shots right there.”
Still unable to get its offense going, Beckley was able to draw a pair of shooting fouls, converting on 3 of 4 attempts to get the deficit back to 10 but while the Flying Eagles were settling for, and splitting free throws throughout the rest of the frame, the Beavers were converting on field goal tries.
R.J. Hairston added a pair of buckets with E.J. Washington following up later with a layup. Kam’Ron Gore, who finished with 18 points, capped the quarter with a layup to make it a 42-25 game after three quarters.
After struggling through the first two quarters, the Beavers finished 7 of 16 (44 percent) from the field in the frame to build a commanding lead. A 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter put the game away with Beckley’s second field goal of the half coming nearly four minutes into the final quarter.
The guests finished 7 of 14 in the final frame thanks to some late shots from Zyon Hawthorne but it proved too little too late after trailing 49-25 with five minutes to play.
“I just think our offense wasn’t poised enough, know what I mean?” Kidd said. “I thought we were trying to force the action instead of letting it come to us. We played last night and were tired and they played last night and were tired. They were a little more poised with their offense than we were. I think we forced the action and they didn’t.”
Of the Flying Eagles’ 43 points, nearly half came from the line where they finished 19 of 26 for the game. It just wasn’t enough to overcome the second half onslaught that saw Bluefield bury 14 of 28 shot attempts while also out-rebounding Beckley 37-26 for the game.
“You know the kids played good defense and got on the floor for loose balls,” Large said. “We hit some big 3 in the second half and that’s what it’s all about.”
Keene and Hawthorne led their respective teams with 19 points each while Gore (18) and Hairston (13) were the only others to finish in double figures. Hairston finished with 15 rebounds as well.
BECK: 8 8 9 18 – 43
BLFD: 16 7 19 16 – 58
Coby Dillon 6, Elijah Redfern 8, Zyon Hawthorne 19, Nazir King 4, Jaylon Walton 6
Glen Keene 19, Kam’Ron Gore 18, RJ Hairston 13, EJ Washington 6, Brett Samosky 2