Tyler Mertins/MetroNews

Bridgeport returned a handful of starters from last year’s state semifinal team.

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va – When Bridgeport opened the year on Saturday, the name Gene Randolph was not announced as head coach for the first time in 20 seasons. Randolph retired at the end of last season after his Indians lost to Fairmont Senior in the Class AA semifinals, and he handed his team over to longtime friend and assistant, Mike Robey.

“Coach Randolph and I have been friends for 25 years — he gave Bridgeport a solid foundation and he was like a glue that held all of the kids together,” Robey said. “Anytime someone is here for 20 years, that’s a good situation.”

Last year, when Randolph announced that he was going to retire, he let Robey loose, allowing him to implement his tendencies and coaching styles on the team.

“It was a very good transition, knowing it was his last year, he gave me a lot more freedom to move into a more prominent role,” Robey said. “He gave me the opportunity to do more things that we’re doing now, more uptempo and more pressure defense.”

Robey inherited a team that lost its two leading scorers, Jordan Haywood and Tyler Sprouse to graduation, and returned only one senior. And it’s last year’s postseason run that could prove to be beneficial for all of the young talent that returned.

“We have three starters back that started all 24 games for us last year, and by the time we made it to the state tournament we had three or four kids that played major minutes as freshmen,” Robey said. “Those kids came in and performed well, so we’re really young, but we have a lot of experience.”

Tyler Mertins/MetroNews

Bridgeport fell in the semifinals of the state tournament a season ago to Fairmont Senior.

The Indians opened up the year with an 86-49 beat down of Mingo Central on Saturday in Charleston. Bridgeport again will take on a bruising schedule, but Robey believes that will only lead to a more battle-tested team in March.

“We play another rugged schedule which will prepare us for a good playoff run,” he said. “It makes us stronger down the road, if we can get past the first six or eight games and get some practices under our belt, we will find out where were going.”

Playing in a conference like the Big 10 also should give the Indians a good measuring point, especially since four of the eight teams in the conference made it to Charleston last season.

“When I look up and down the Big 10 these teams have a lot of experience back,” Robey said. “I think the Big 10 is as good as any conference in the state in Class AA.”

2013-14 Boys Basketball Schedule

12/18/13 07:30PM  H  ROBERT C. BYRD (Moved to January) -  
12/26/13 07:00PM  A  EQT ENERGY CLASSIC  -  
12/27/13 07:00PM  A  EQT ENERGY CLASSIC  -  
12/28/13 07:00PM  A  EQT ENERGY CLASSIC  -  
12/31/13 02:30PM  A  FAIRMONT SENIOR  -  
01/03/14 07:30PM  A  PRESTON  -  
01/06/14 07:30PM  A  EAST FAIRMONT  -  
01/08/14 07:30PM  H  PHILIP BARBOUR  -  
10  01/10/14 07:30PM  A  NORTH MARION  -  
11  01/11/14 07:30PM  A  ROBERT C. BYRD  -  
12  01/15/14 07:30PM  H  LINCOLN  -  
13  01/17/14 07:30PM  A  LIBERTY (HARRISON)  -  
14  01/22/14 07:30PM  H  LEWIS COUNTY  -  
15  01/24/14 07:30PM  A  GRAFTON  -  
16  01/29/14 07:30PM  H  FAIRMONT SENIOR  -  
17  01/31/14 07:30PM  A  ELKINS  -  
18  02/05/14 07:30PM  H  GRAFTON  -  
19  02/07/14 07:30PM  H  EAST FAIRMONT  -  
20  02/12/14 07:30PM  A  BUCKHANNON-UPSHUR  -  
21  02/14/14 07:30PM  H  NORTH MARION  -  
22  02/21/14 07:30PM  H  LIBERTY (HARRISON)  -  
 wins: 1   lost: 0   ties: 0
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