CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Flashing grit and toughness, Class AA No. 1 Bluefield seized a chance and earned a chance all at the same time on Friday night.
The Beavers saved their best basketball of the night and made No. 4 Robert C. Byrd pay for a six-plus-minute cold spell in earning a 54-48 win in a tightly contested semifinal at the Charleston Civic Center.
The victory also put Beavers back in the title game after falling to Tug Valley in the same game last year.
"Many teams, they don't get a second chance and we're fortunate to come back again and get this second chance, and hopefully we bring it home this time," Bluefield junior Michael Yost said.
Bluefield shot just 14 of 22 from the free-throw line, with a lot of those misses coming late in the fourth quarter after a 20-for-39 performance Thursday in a win over No. 8 North Marion.
That late shooting, or lack thereof, left the door open for Byrd to hang around to the very end, but the Eagles' ineptitude and Bluefield's unyielding defense was too much to overcome.
"We made a few mistakes in critical times," Byrd coach Bill Bennett said. "We didn't make shots in the second half like we did in the first, obviously. Some of that's attributed to their defense and some of that's attributed to us. One of our goals we had this afternoon was to be in position to win the game with four minutes to go and we were - we were right there. Just a couple of critical times we couldn't get stops and they're hard to stop."
Both teams shot 50 percent or better in the first half and came out firing in the third quarter, but Byrd stalled in the fourth, going scoreless over the first 6:34 during a backbreaking 8-0 spurt.
The long dry spell included two blown wide-open layups on a fast break that resulted in a run-out layup the other way for Anthony Eades.
On the next possession, Justin Noble took a jumper from the high post that was rattling in until Iziah Hill went up for the tip-in and hit the rim with the ball inside the cylinder, resulting in a critical goaltending call.
Meanwhile, Bluefield ran its one-point lead to start the fourth up to nine before Devonti Birch hit a 3 at the 1:26 mark.