CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bluefield’s near-perfect start ruined No. 1 Robert C. Byrd’s shot at a perfect season.
Anthony Eades scored 29 points and the third-seeded Beavers ambushed RCB behind a huge first quarter to win 64-39 in the Class AA championship game.
In reeling off 24 straight victories, Byrd had won all but three games by double-digits. But it was on the other end of a blowout Saturday, committing 27 turnovers and making only nine baskets—a stunning unraveling against the defense of Bluefield (25-2), which claimed its second consecutive championship.
“No. 2 feels even better than No. 1,” said Eades. “Not a lot people go back-to-back. It feels great to end my career like this.”
The emotions were far different on the RCB bench, where players hugged and wept as the outcome became inevitable.
“We’re all hurting,” said coach Bill Bennett said: We put so much energy into this, and when it’s finally over, it’s like running into a wall. But we knew Bluefield was the champ until someone knocked them off.”
Corey Coppola provided 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Beavers, who closed the season on an 18-game winning streak. Lykel Collier flirted with a triple-double by compiling nine points, 11 assists and 11 steals.
Playing a nearly flawless first quarter, Bluefield zipped out to a stunning 25-4 lead—making 11-of-16 shots while RCB (24-1) went 1-of-9 with nine turnovers. By the time Justin Noble scored the Eagles’ first basket on a putback at the 3:44 mark, his team trailed 13-0.
“We had a great first quarter—a lot of energy and our press was working,” said Bluefield coach Buster Large.
Said Collier of RCB’s struggles: “They probably hadn’t seen the pressure we were putting on them.”
Though RCB settled down during the second quarter, the gap widened to 39-15 at half and the favorites looked shell-shocked.
“The first half was pretty much a disaster for us,” Bennett said. “I don’t know the reason for the slow start, but Bluefield had a lot to do with that. They come at you, and when you turn it over, they keep coming at you.”
The Eagles flexed some defense of their own to began clawing back, forcing four turnovers and holding Bluefield to 2-of-9 shooting in the third quarter. By the time Devonti Birch sank a 3 to close the period, RCB had drawn to within 43-29.
But Bluefield slammed the door on a comeback with a 21-10 run over the final eight minutes.
“We had a chip on our shoulder coming up here, and we wanted to prove to the whole state that we were still the defending champs,” Collier said.
Birch led RCB with 14 points on 3-of-10 shooting, while Justin Noble added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Said RCB senior Kevin Steele on his team coming within one win of running the table: “Even though our season is incomplete with the loss today, it was a great ride.”
His teammate Birch, only a junior, suggested the Eagles could return in 2015. “Tough loss. It was crazy. Hopefully we’ll come back down here next year and finish this off.”