Bluefield blows by Fairmont Senior
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bluefield didn't just kick the door in Saturday afternoon, the Beavers blew it wide open.
The top-seeded Beavers finally put together a complete game in the Class AA state tournament, dismantling No. 2 Fairmont Senior 63-43 in the championship game. A crowd of 7,984 attended the two-game session, which included the Class A title game, at the Charleston Civic Center.
Bluefield (25-3) captured its first state championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1995-96. The Beavers lost to Tug Valley 58-52 in last year's final. Bluefield also finished runner-up in 1997, 1999 and 2006.
The Beavers shot a blistering 51.7 percent in the opening half against Fairmont Senior in taking a 36-23 lead at halftime and finished 50 percent from the floor. Bluefield didn't commit its first turnover until 3:27 of the third quarter.
Bluefield was a little shaky in winning its first two games this week. The Beavers trailed North Marion after the opening quarter of the quarterfinals and fell behind Robert C. Byrd 32-31 at halftime of the semifinals.
"We struggled,'' said Bluefield junior guard Anthony Eades, who poured in 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting and converted all eight free-throw attempts. "We knew we had to step it up.
"We just had to come out hard. We just came to play. We prepared well. I was feeling it in warm ups and I told my teammates just to look for me and they did. They did a really good job of getting me the ball and setting screens for me. All that goes to them.''
Bluefield trailed 6-3 early in the first period, but used a 10-0 run to close out the quarter and charge in front 13-6. The Beavers took the lead for good on sophomore Corey Coppola's jump shot with 3:22 left in the first and never trailed again.
Fairmont Senior (21-7) pulled within two points (16-14) on junior guard Jarin Hilson's three-point play on a driving layup and foul shot with 6:08 remaining in the second quarter. Bluefield, though, answered with a 10-2 surge to extend its advantage to 26-16 with 4:32 to go before halftime. Beavers junior guard Lykel Collier and Eades ignited the flurry with back-to-back 3-pointers, while junior Michael Yost finished it off with consecutive driving layups.
"We like playing with a lead,'' said Collier, who added 12 points, including 10 in the first half, to go along with seven assists and two steals. "When I hit that first 3, I knew it was going to be a good game. We were just playing basketball and having fun.''
Fairmont Senior turned the ball over on its first possession of the third period and Bluefield made it pay, netting the first six points on Coppola's back-to-back layups and Eades' two shots from the charity stripe for a 19-point bulge (42-23).
Junior guard Austin Norman seemed to get the momentum back on the Polar Bears' side with a four-point play on a 3 and foul shot to cut the deficit to 15 points (44-29) with 3:57 left in the third, but the Beavers answered with two straight baskets from Coppola and Eades to push the lead back to 19 points (48-29) and were never threatened the rest of the way.
Coppola finished with 12 points on 6 of 9 accuracy with eight rebounds for Bluefield. Collier, Eades and junior forward D.J. Edwards earned all-tournament honors.
"Early in the first quarter [Fairmont Senior was] pushing the ball and we just weren't getting back,'' said Bluefield coach Buster Large.
"Once we were able to get back on defense and slow them down a little bit, we were able to get the rebounds and get out to a 13-point lead at halftime. That made a big different right there. That's a very good adjustment. I'm very proud how our kids listened to the coaches.''
Senior guard Travon Horton, Fairmont Senior's top scorer at 18.1 points per game, was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting in only 19 minutes after picking up three fouls in the opening half. The Polar Bears shot just 34.7 percent, including 29.2 percent in the second half.
"No question it hurt us,'' said Fairmont Senior coach David Retton of Horton's troubles. "He's an outstanding scorer for us and he's able to do a lot of things. Aside from the scoring, he's able to penetrate and get into the zone. It certainly changed how he played in terms of being aggressive.''
Hilson tallied 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, five assists and two steals for Fairmont Senior while Norman added 10 points. Polar Bears senior center Shaquille Washington had six points, seven boards and five blocks. Hilson, Horton and Washington were all-tournament selections.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.