Tucker County coach Tom Gutstall had one mission when it came to playing Greater Beckley Christian Wednesday night in a Class A quarterfinal game.
“We knew we had to stop Keith Mullins,” he said.
It was a goal that was much easier to set than to accomplish. The senior Crusader guard, who surpassed 1,000 career points in just two seasons, had shot 56 percent from 3-point territory this season.
But Gutsall’s plan worked.
The Mountain Lions held Mullins to 0-for-8 from 3-point territory in a 68-61 Tucker County win that ended Greater Beckley’s trip to Charleston. Mullins finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in his final game for the Crusaders, but his missed 3s proved too much to overcome.
“I was just thinking this would be the last time I played high school basketball,” Mullins said with tears in his eyes.
Despite the opening-round loss, the 19-6 season was a successful one in the eyes of second-year head coach Dan Burd.
“I told the boys in the locker room, I got one senior. I feel bad for Keith that he won’t be repeating this with us, but I feel this was a growing time for us. I believe next year, with everyone returning, we’re going to be a much better basketball team,” he said.
One of those players coming back is point guard Javonne Staunton-Bailey. Bailey was held to only two points in the first quarter due to foul trouble, but he rallied back for 15 more points in the second.
“We just struggled a little bit today. It’s a big game for us,” Staunton-Bailey said. “We just came out on the short end.”
It was a rather uncanny game for the Crusaders, who all season have managed to avoid foul trouble and shoot at a high percentage from beyond the arc. On Wednesday night, they picked up 16 personal fouls and went three-and-a-half quarters without a 3-pointer.
“We have a young team,” Burd said. “Some of our kids haven’t even been to a state tournament game to watch. We had some nerves. I told them before the game that maybe we should play some transition basketball and bang around a little bit and get some scoring in the paint before we start jacking up 3s.”
Staunton-Bailey, who previously won a state championship with Oak Hill, doesn’t plan on letting this be his final trip to Charleston.
“We came up on the short end. With the rest of the guys, we’re just going to start Monday to work hard and work hard and work hard to come out on the top end,” he said.
They’ll at least have the support of one former teammate.
“I wish my teammates at Greater Beckley success,” Mullins said. “They’re going to bring home a state championship.”
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
GREATER BECKLEY CHRISTIAN (19-6)
Staunton-Bailey 7-14 1-4 17, Kidd 6-8 1-2 14, Daniels 4-8 1-2 9, Mullins 4-21 3-4 11, Helton 1-3 2-2 4, Cook 3-4 0-0 6, Payne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 8-14 61.
TUCKER COUNTY (21-3)
Snyder 7-11 7-10 22, Kirk 5-12 2-2 16, Lewis 1-6 6-8 8, Goldstein 0-1 0-0 0, Nichols 8-15 1-3 20, Mason 0-0 0-0 0, Kidwell 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 22-48 16-23 68.
Greater Beckley 13 11 12 25—61
Tucker County 17 20 11 20—68
3-Point Goals—Greater Beckley 3-18 (Staunton-Bailey 2-7, Kidd 1-2, Cook 0-1, Mullins 0-8), Tucker County 8-19 (Zirk 4-9, Nichols 3-5, Snyder 1-2, Goldstein 0-1, Lewis 0-2). Fouled Out—Cook. Rebounds—Greater Beckley 31 (Mullins 10), Tucker County 36 (Nichols 10). Assists—Greater Beckley 12 (Staunton-Bailey 6), Tucker County 14 (Zirk 5). Total Fouls—Greater Beckley 16, Tucker County 14. A—6,759 (evening session).