BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — For veteran Robert C. Byrd boys basketball coach Bill Bennett, the Eagles’ showing Saturday at Bridgeport won’t fall under the category of aesthetically pleasing.
Still, that did nothing to lessen Bennett’s satisfaction after RCB’s 42-34 road win over a Harrison County rival.
“It’s a good win for us to get,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t pretty. I don’t think they’ll put that tape in the archives anywhere, but we’ll take it.”
The Eagles were led by Bryson Lucas’ 14 points, 13 of which came in the first half. RCB had three double figure scorers — Gavin Kennedy and Khori Miles added 10 apiece, with all of Miles’ output coming after halftime.
A big factor in the outcome proved to be Robert C. Byrd’s strong start. Playing their first game since Dec. 18, the Eagles (2-2) got five early points from Lucas and held a 9-0 lead following Kennedy’s jump hook.
“More than what happened on the scoreboard, the start to me was about the tempo of the game,” Bridgeport head coach Dave Marshall said. “I don’t mean up and down tempo. I mean they got up in our face defensively like we like to.
“They kicked us right in the face and it took us a while to get to where we weren’t on our heels taking that. They out-toughed us and I don’t think there’s any other way to say it.”
Bridgeport (5-2) closed the opening quarter with a 6-2 surge to trail 14-8, but Lucas accounted for five points early in the second to give Byrd its nine-point lead back.
Lucas’ fifth and final field goal of the opening half came on a jump hook and sent RCB into the break with a 23-15 lead.
“I can give them the greatest speech in the world, but that’s only going to last a couple minutes,” Bennett said. “Then it boils down to executing the things you do in practice every day.”
The two teams combined for only 11 points in the third quarter and Miles accounted for all six of his team’s points.
Miles scored on a follow-up in the fourth to up Byrd’s lead to 35-24, but the Indians quickly answered with a Jack Bifano 3-pointer and two Nick Stalnaker free throws.
After Tommy Hawkins scored inside to make it an eight-point game, the Indians cut the deficit in half when Drew Hogue and Stalnaker both scored from close range.
Bridgeport got the ball back down four with inside of 1 minute to play, but Stalnaker’s jumper fell off the mark.
The Eagles made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch, including Kennedy going 4-for-4 to put to rest any thought of a Tribe comeback.
“(The start) was important. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened over the years here. Get off to a quick start and typically when that happens kids think the rest of the game is going to be easy and it’s never easy,” Bennett said.
Despite the low scoring total, the Eagles made 16-of-34 shots to shoot 47 percent. RCB, however, got all 42 points from its starting five.
Stalnaker led the Indians with 16 points, but the rest of the Indians combined for only 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
“We have too many guys standing and watching Nick,” Marshall said. “It’s kind of like the deer in the headlights.”