Beavers' defense dooms Spartans
Bluefield (64) Vs. Greenbrier East (47)
Feb 19, 2016
for the Daily Telegraph
FAIRLEA — On Bluefield’s first possession of the game Friday it shot six times, grabbed five offensive rebounds and used 3:20 off the clock before Donte Hopkins knocked down a 3 from the wing to give the Beavers the early lead over Greenbrier East.

It only got worse for the Spartans.

Class AA No. 9 Bluefield scored 14 of the game’s first 15 points, and East didn’t make its first field goal until less than a minute was left on the opening-quarter clock.

The Beavers’ relentless pressure forced 24 Spartan turnovers, leading to 24 points on the other end and an easy 64-47 victory.

“We knew it was going to be an opportunity to come up here and get better,” said Bluefield head coach Buster Large. “I think we have. We’ve been working with different combinations, and these kids are getting seasoned.

“I don’t know when Bluefield has come up here and won a regular season game. It’s been a long, long time. We feel really, really good about it.”

East never led in the game, and the visitors went up by as many as 28 before both teams cleared the benches late. The Beavers won the battle of the boards 34-25, and controlled the game from the opening tip, using their speed and athleticism to score basket after basket in transition.

The bulk of the damage came from guards Mookie Collier and Jeremy Thompson, who combined to score almost two-thirds of the Beavers’ points.

Thompson finished with 21 points and five rebounds, while Collier poured in 19 points. Dominick Taxley finished with seven points and eight rebounds.

“Our kids have really bought into the program and what we’re trying to do,” said Large. “It’s really made a difference. My assistants, Tony Webster and Jim Pettus, have done an outstanding job. That makes my job so much easier.”

East regularly struggled to get the ball inbounded and had to fight to get it across half-court line all night. When it did, nothing came easy against a relentless Beaver defense.

The Spartans, playing without 6-foot-9 senior Karim Ezzeddine, got off only 15 shots in the opening half, compared to 30 for the Beavers, and shot just 27 percent in that first 16 minutes.

“We had more turnovers than we had shots in the first half,” said Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice. “I’ve never seen such a stat. We only shot the ball 15 times. That’s an impossible stat in triple-A basketball. There’s just no way that should happen.”

The numbers improved in the second half, but by that time it was much too late.

Seth Brown was the only East player to finish in double-figures with 13 points. Nathon Lemons added eight off the bench, but the Spartans struggled to find good looks and rarely knocked them down when they game.

“(Thursday) night we played Riverside pretty close and had a real shot to be able to beat them,” said Justice. “But we came out on the first possession and Bluefield shot six shots before they made it. When people get after us in the backcourt, we really struggle.”

Bluefield, which has won four straight and five of its last six, will be at No. 6 Wyoming East Tuesday before hosting rival Princeton next Friday. Sectional play begins the next week.

“I’ll be the first to say I think we have the toughest region in the state,” said Large. “We’re going to have to play to try to get out. There are some talented teams that are going to be left behind this year.”

East, which has now lost five of its last seven after a 9-3 start, hosts Shady Spring on Tuesday.

“They’re are a bunch that if they started to do some positive things could become confident and take off,” said Justice of his club. “That’s what they’ve got to do. But I can’t just wave a wand and make that happen. They’ve got to do a lot of this on their own.”

— Email: chuffman@

At Fairlea


Donte Hopkins 2 0-0 6, Jaray Williams 1 0-0 2, Jeremy Thompson 9 0-0 21, Mookie Collier 5 9-11 19, Dominick Taxley 3 1-4 7, Devon Goins 0 1-2 1, Ronnell Glevins 1 0-0 2, Dyon Wright 3 0-0 6. Totals: 24 11-17 64.


Madison Erskine 3 0-0 7, Seth Brown 4 5-5 13, Caleb Brown 1 3-6 5, Jasiah Rawls 1 0-0 2, Nathon Lemons 3 0-0 8, Gavin Smith 2 1-1 6, Logan Taylor 1 2-3 4, Kylar Topps 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 11-15 47.

Bluefield.................16 18 9 21 — 64

Greenbrier East........5 11 11 20 — 47

3-point goals: BHS 5 (Hopkins 2, Thompson 3); GE 4 (Erskine, Lemons 2, Smith). Fouled out: None.
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Bluefield 16 18 9 21 0 64
Greenbrier East 5 11 11 20 0 47
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