Gallery by Greg Barnett
Gardener – Bluefield coach Buster Large wore his 2013 state championship ring during the Beavers’ season opener at PikeView.
His first title as a head coach, the ring came a year after the Beavers fell in the 2012 title game. After losing last season’s title game, Large is hoping this year’s team follows in the footsteps of his championship team from 10 years ago.
If Thursday’s opener is any indication they’re well on their way.
The Beavers forced 21 first-half turnovers, routing the host Panthers 83-55 in Gardner.
Usually fresh off football, Large has had his full reservoir of players for a month and it showed. While normally rusty in the first game, the Beavers fired on all cylinders from the jump, racing out to a 24-12 lead after a quarter and never relinquishing their double digit advantage.
“We’ve had four good weeks of practice,” Large said. “The kids have really worked hard, the coaches have really worked hard and we’ve had two good scrimmages. We were excited to play tonight and it showed out there. We probably could’ve scored more but the fourth quarter we put our reserves in. We’re playing well as unit and we moved the ball well. At halftime they had 20 turnovers so we really applied the pressure.”
On cue the Bluefield pressure caused problems for PikeView from the jump. Caleb Fuller picked off a pass on PikeView’s first possession, kicking to Will Looney for a layup. After Jared Vestal tied the game on a pair of free throws Bluefield’s R.J. Hairston nabbed the lead for good with a three-point play. Sencere Fields added insult to injury with back-to-back steals, turning one into a layup and bringing the PikeView turnover count to three just two minutes into the contest.
“You know they’re going to be athletic and we knew they returned a ton of experienced guys from that championship game run,” PikeView head coach Colton Thompson said. “I always say Bluefield’s just a hard team to prep for because you can’t simulate it. You can try and practice to simulate it but it’s hard to get a look at it before to see what it’s like to go against that type of pressure. They’re as fast as Bluefield’s ever been.”
Vestal responded with a layup to make it a 7-4 game but a 10-2 run pushed the advantage to double digits. It remained as such permanently after Glen Keene nailed a 3 to make it 22-10 late in the first quarter.
Turnovers weren’t the only miscues plaguing the Panthers. They were out-rebounded 37-24 with the Beavers hauling in 15 offensive rebounds.
R.J. Hairston led the way with 15 points and 10 rebounds with five of them coming on the offensive end.
“I’m honestly surprised that number wasn’t higher,” Thompson admitted. “They’re physical and active on the boards and they’ve got guys that are in there specifically for that. I’m sure their stats are scattered out and it’s not one guy that crushed the glass but they always seem to find that loose ball and make you pay for it. But we’re trying to be more physical and work on techniques to get inside and cancel that out and get some leverage.”
Success for both teams came from inside the arc. The Panthers were 17 of 32 from two-point range but just 3 of 20 from outside. The Beavers finished 30 of 52 from two-point range, tracking down long rebounds to help run their break and get easy buckets in transition.
“We’re a good rebounding team and we run the break well,” Large said. “The kids are a little bit ahead of where we expected so we’re really happy. We’ll get back at and prepare for Westside on Tuesday.”
Looney led Bluefield with 20 points while Kam’Ron Gore (17), Caleb Fuller (14) and Hairston (15) also reached double figures.
Jared Vestal was the lone Panthers in double figures with 20 points.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @tjack94
B: 24 28 23 8 – 83
PV: 12 13 13 17 – 55
Kam’Ron Gore 17, Sencere Fields 6, Will Looney 20, Caleb Fuller 20, Glen Keene 5, Brayden Fong 2, RJ Hairston 15, Gerard Wade 2, Garrett Hicks 2
Peyton Greer 4, Drew Damewood 7, Nathan Riffe 7, Braden Harvey 2, Brett Samosky 2, David Thomas 9, Zayden Neely 4, Jared Vestal 20
3-point goals – B: 3 (Gore 2, Keene 1); PV: 3 (Damewood 1, Thomas 1, Vestal 1).