BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Bluefield entered this year’s state tournament as the No. 3 seed behind as No. 1 Robert C. Byrd and No. 2 Poca, but the championship undoubtedly had to go through the defending champion Beavers who returned the bulk of 2013’s title team.
“We just wanted to get into the tournament, and we did,” Large said. “We had outstanding play all three games and had great preparation by our assistant coaches. We just felt like it was one that they wanted to bring back to Bluefield. It’s hard to win back-to-back (championships) and these kids really applied themselves through practice and hard work.”
And the Beavers rolled in tournament play, whipping No. 6 Chapmanville in the quarterfinals 63-34, taking care of No. 2 Poca in the semifinals 70-54 and then drubbing previously unbeaten RCB 64-39 in the title game.
“It was just an outstanding tournament,” Large said. “We had a goal of trying to win back-to-back championships, and we did. I give all the credit to our seniors Lykel Collier, Anthony Eades and Michael Yost. Those three veteran players really helped us get to it.
“They’ve been outstanding and they applied themselves in the summer, lifting weights, playing in summer league and all of the shootouts,” Large continued. “They’re just an outstanding group of young men that really made a contribution of bringing another state championship back to Bluefield High School.”
The job Large’s club did defensively in that title game, meanwhile, was tremendous as the Beavers forced 27 RCB turnovers. It was the eighth time on the year Bluefield held an opponent to under 40 points.
“I give Tony Webster a lot of credit for that—he’s an outstanding assistant coach,” Large said. “We worked extremely hard all year long on defense and it paid off in the state tournament.”
Bluefield finished the year with a 25-2 record, matching its back-to-back championship seasons from 1995 and 1996.
“Obviously everyone has your number (in year two),” Large said. “We started out as the No. 1 team in the state and fell down to No. 3. But that never really bothered us, because we knew it all would be said and done if we got back to Charleston and came out of there with a championship.”
Both Wyoming East and Oak Hill have claimed two straight Class AA championships, but no school has won three straight Class AA titles since Northfork won eight straight from 1974-1981. As for the group Large will have back next year to chase after a three-peat?
“We feel like we will also have a pretty good team next year,” Large said. “By all means not as good as this year, but we have the talent and the nucleus of some kids coming back that could make us a competitor.”
The Beavers made it to the championship game in 1997, going for that third straight title. However that season ended in a title game loss to Poca.