Gallery by Heather Belcher
Veteran Beckley boys basketball head coach Ron Kidd admitted he had some concerns prior to the game Wednesday night in the Little General Battle for the Armory.
With longtime rival Oak Hill waiting in the wings, the Flying Eagles did not have the best week of practice after dropping their first two regular season games this year.
Sometimes a young team is hard to read, even for a veteran coach.
Exploding on a 17-0 run in the middle of the game, Beckley trounced the Red Devils 66-37 inside the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
“Anytime you play against Oak Hill you know its a (longtime) rival. I thought our kids came ready,” Kidd said. “I was a little nervous because with young kids, I didn’t think we practiced like we should have this week. We played better than what we practiced, so I was proud of the kids.”
In the early going, it appeared Kidd’s fear would be realized when Oak Hill jumped out to 10-2 lead in the first six minutes of play.
Brayden Hawthorne stemmed the tide for Beckley hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and when Coby Dillon banked in a long ball with 37 seconds left in the first quarter, the Flying Eagles led for the first time.
Trevor Kelly evened the game just before the end of the first quarter and later gave the lead back to Oak Hill on a 3-ball with 6:49 to play before halftime.
Unfortunately for the visitors from Fayette County, it was all downhill from there.
Elijah Redfern carved up the Oak Hill defense on back-to-back trips for layups with one turning into a conventional 3-point play.
A tip-in from Jaylon Walton was followed by a resounding block by Redfern who then scored inside on the other end, giving Beckley a 27-19 advantage.
“I thought our defense set the tone and we played pretty good defense tonight. That got us some layups and easy shots,” Kidd said. “You could see the bounce in our kids when we were scoring like that. It changes everything.”
Another steal from Redfern led to a missed layup, but the junior standout was there to clean up the miss to keep the momentum rolling.
Redfern led all scorers with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks.
“At the beginning of the year we said he almost has to be a triple-double guy each night for us to win. He was right there tonight,” Kidd said.
When Zyon Hawthorne beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer, Beckley led 32-23.
“They made some shots, but I thought some of it was self-inflicted. We were over dribbling. We looked like we were playing one-on-five,” Oak Hill head coach Benitez Jackson said. “We came in the locker and talked about moving the ball more and not pounding it on the ground. I thought everything we talked about in the locker room at halftime went out the window in the third quarter.”
The Flying Eagles applied the knockout blow over the first half of the third quarter when they ran off 12 straight out of the locker room for a 44-23 advantage.
Half of the points came from Braydon Hawthorne who scored on a floater before slamming one home on a run out. After rejecting an Oak Hill shot on the next possession, Hawthorne scored again in transition to send the Beckley crowd into a frenzy.
“We didn’t get back in transition. When you take bad shots it leads to transition,” Jackson said. “I thought we had some good looks in the third quarter that didn’t go, but you can’t let that affect your defense. We gave up too many shots in transition and we didn’t rebound.”
The lanky sophomore scored 14 points, collected eight rebounds and had four of Beckley’s nine blocks on the night.
“This is the type of game that we have wanted from Braydon and also from Walton, just rebounding and controlling the inside,” Kidd said. “(Braydon) is so long that you don’t realize it until you get ready to shoot in front of him and he goes to about 7-foot-2 from 6-foot-6. He is a big factor for us on defense and a good shot blocker.”
A stickback from Kelly cut the lead to 19, but a triple from Zyon Hawthorne and a pull-up baseline jumper from Redfern gave Beckley a 24 point bulge. The lead for the home team never dropped below 21 points the rest of the way.
After flirting with wins in the first two games, Kidd was happy to see his team grab a much needed victory.
“I think we did a better job subbing tonight so our kids got a little rest,” Kidd said. “Then they came back in with more enthusiasm and more energy. The guys that came in didn’t hurt us and played well.”
Wednesday’s game was the 185th meeting between the two schools with Beckley now owning 148 wins over that span.
“Overall I thought (Beckley) played really good defense which I knew they would. We just dribbled the spots off the ball sometimes. I give their defense a lot of credit, but we just tried to do too much sometimes,” Jackson said. “When we did get in the lane, they took charges and Hawthorne was blocking shots. We were just stagnate offensively.”
Beckley will now play James Monroe in the championship game of the Burger King Division Thursday at 8 p.m.
Oak Hill will matchup with Calvary Baptist in the consolation game at 6 p.m.