CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class AA No. 7 Lincoln pulled off a stunning upset on Thursday in the boys basketball state tournament, knocking off No. 2 Bluefield 63-59.
The Cougars (13-13) entered state tournament play under .500 and eliminated a Bluefield team that finishes the year at 22-4.
“We wanted it really bad and we’ve trusted the process throughout this whole postseason,” said Lincoln senior standout Chase Riley. “Right before the game I saw a poll that said 98 percent of the people picked Bluefield.
“They were expected to win and that was motivation for us,” Riley added. “We’re a great team, we stay together and we’re great teammates. We found a way to come together to get that win.”
Riley was the star for Lincoln, finishing with 28 points on 12 of 23 shooting.
“He’s done that for us all year,” said Lincoln coach Jordan Toth. “We’ve rode him all year. He’s our workhorse, he’s our stud out there and I thought he did a great job of getting into the game. He missed a few early that he usually makes, but we didn’t panic and he didn’t panic.”
Up 61-59 with 47 seconds left, Riley missed two straight free throws, leaving the door open for Bluefield. Coming out of a timeout with 17 seconds to go, the Beavers’ Cody Fuller missed a potential go-ahead 3.
“We were trying to get a good shot and we didn’t get the shot that we wanted,” said Bluefield coach Buster Large. “They had a great game plan and hats off to them. That’s what this state tournament is all about.”
After the miss, Riley answered quickly with a breakaway layup and the game-clinching score for the Cougars as the clock ran out.
“The first thing that was going through my mind was missing those two free throws,” Riley said. “I told the guys they had to pick me up and get a defensive stop. I saw that ball go off the rim and I just took off after it. Nobody was around it – I couldn’t believe it. I just took off with it and finished the deal.
“When I first shot (the layup), I thought I might have overshot it with all of the momentum going to the basket,” he continued. “Left-handed layup and the toughest one of my career.”
Bluefield held a 26-24 advantage at the half and 42-40 lead going into the fourth quarter.
With the Beavers missing five straight field goals midway in the final stanza, Lincoln built a four-point lead with a Riley jumper, putting the Cougars in front 50-46 and 5:08 remaining.
After a Collier bucket later put Bluefield back on top, a Riley layup-and-one gave Lincoln the lead right back, 57-55, and 2:26 remaining.
Cory Fazalare added 11 points for the Cougars in the win. Mookie Collier led Bluefield with 24 points in the loss, while Ryan Davis finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Lincoln moves on to face No. 3 Chapmanville at 11:15 a.m. Friday morning.
“I’ve been down here at the state tournament watching basketball games since I was five years old,” Riley said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to come down here and play. To have this kind of performance against a two-seed, and to win a game we aren’t really supposed to, is an unbelievable feeling. It’s the experience of a lifetime.”