By Cam Huffman
Woodrow Wilson has another sectional title to add to its impressive basketball resume, and this one tasted extra sweet for the Flying Eagles.
Class AAA No. 2 Beckley (20-4) avenged a 61-59 defeat to Greenbrier East on Jan. 2 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center with a convincing 80-48 thumping of those same Spartans Friday night at the Brushfork Armory to claim not only revenge, but also the Region 3, Section 2 championship.
The Flying Eagles will host Riverside Tuesday in a region co-final, with a trip to the state tournament in Charleston on the line.
“Anytime you win any championship — the Big Atlantic, the MSAC or a sectional championship — it's a good feeling,” said Woodrow Wilson head coach Ron Kidd, whose team extended its winning streak to 16 games after a 4-4 start. “You want to win championships. But our ultimate goal is cutting down the nets in Charleston.”
East (20-4) still has a chance at its first playoff trip since 2002, as well, but it will take a win at No. 3 South Charleston Tuesday in the other region co-final.
The question for the Flying Eagles heading into Tuesday's game is the health of star guard Donte Nabors. He finished with 13 points and four rebounds but left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury after he got tangled up with Greenbrier East's Obi Romeo under the basket and took a foot to the chest.
“It hurts a little,” said Nabors. “They said they might be cracked or bruised. But I just have to give it some rest.”
By the time Nabors left Friday's game, the final outcome was no longer in doubt.
In fact, Woodrow took control before many had even found their seats.
Ahead 6-4 early in the first quarter, Beckley took advantage of the Spartans' cold shooting from the outside, using a 13-3 run to take a 19-7 lead after the opening quarter as East settled for outside looks and couldn’t connect on the easy ones.
Brent Osborne connected on a 3-pointer out of the break to extend the Beckley advantage to 22-7 and the Spartans, who have lost four of their last nine games after a 15-0 start, were never able to recover.
“It's all momentum,” said Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice. “If you get off well and start building a little bit of confidence, you believe. But they took that will away from us.”
East made just 5 of 17 free throw attempts in the opening half and was 6-for-23 from the field, but Beckley, which shot just 31 percent in the first half, couldn't put the game away. Despite those ugly Spartan numbers, the advantage was just 12, 31-19 at half, and Kidd was anything but comfortable.
“We were up in Beckley by about the same score,” said the Woodrow coach, who went to the locker room with three fouls each on starting point guard Andrew Johnson and forward Chase Hancock. “We knew East wasn't going to quit. They play too hard.
“We made some mistakes, and we couldn't take them out in the first half.”
Kidd, though, rolled the dice out of the locker room, putting his original starting five back on the floor, and the decision proved to be a good one. Johnson and Hancock played smart, avoiding fouls on the defensive end and contributing to an increased scoring output when Beckley had the ball.
Johnson gave his team some momentum with a long third-quarter 3-pointer, and Hancock drove the lane for a bucket that put his team ahead 40-21 and forced the struggling Spartans to call a timeout.
Bryce Woodliff, East's senior point guard, responded to the challenge with a pull-up 3-ball out of the timeout to cut the deficit to 16, but the Spartans never came any closer.
Ahead 56-31 at the end of the third quarter, after outscoring East 25-12 in that frame, the final eight minutes were mostly a celebration for Beckley and its fans that made the trip down I-77 to enjoy the moment.
“We played this game at our tempo,” said Kidd. “We were able to get up and down the floor, and we defended them better on the perimeter.”
Johnson finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Flying Eagle attack. Hancock had 13 points and six boards, and Brent Osborne scored 10 points to go along with six rebounds. Beckley won the battle of the boards 52-47 and shot 46 percent in the second half to improve its shooting numbers.
“We came out and played hard, and when I got hurt they played for me,” said Nabors, who said he'll do whatever the doctor tells him and hopes to be eligible for Tuesday's game against a Riverside team it beat 88-45 on Feb. 7. “We said the first time they beat us that we were going to see them in the sectional championship, and we came out with a lot of intensity and played Beckley basketball.”
The Spartans found a team-best 14 points and 11 rebounds from Rondale Watson, who battled through a frustrating evening and connected on just three of 13 field goal attempts after scoring 26 in the first meeting against the Flying Eagles. Owen Browning scored 14 off the bench on the strength of four 3-pointers, but aside from Watson's contribution, East got just 20 points from the rest of its starting five.
“It's been a rough two days for me, I can promise you that,” said Justice, whose undefeated girls team was knocked out in the Region 3 final Thursday night in a major upset at the hands of Capital. “But Beckley put a lot of pressure on us, and they make you miss shots. They have a great team, they played really hard, and the wheels flew off for us.”
The challenge now for Justice is to find his way to get his team to forget the loss and refocus on South Charleston, a team that beat the Spartans 67-41 two weeks ago.
“We'll do the best we can,” he said. “But it's tough.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
Greenbrier East (20-4)
Tyler Canterbury 1 0-0 3, Dereck Weiford 0 0-1 0, Obi Romeo 3 2-9 8, Rondale Watson 3 8-13 14, Bryce Woodliff 3 2-2 9, Austin Roop 0 0-0 0, Owen Browning 4 2-2 14, Evan Ramsey 0 0-2 0, Deante Erskine 0 0-0 0, Josh Zebosky 0 0-0 0, Ryan Lindsey 0 0-0 0, Maurkese Tripplett 0 0-0 0. Totals 14-55 14-29 48.
Woodrow Wilson (20-4)
Andrew Johnson 9 3-6 22, Donte Nabors 4 4-4 13, Chase Hancock 5 2-4 13, Nequan Carington 1 2-2 4, Brent Osborne 2 5-6 10, Corey Acord 0 4-8 4, Devan Bently 0 0-0 0, Nick Deems 2 0-0 4, Dai Dai Fortune 2 4-6 8, Noah Hancock 1 0-0 2. Totals 26-67 24-37 80.
GE 7 12 12 17 — 48
WW 19 12 25 24 — 80
3-pointers — GE: 6 (Canterbury, Woodliff, Browning 4); WW: 4 (Johnson, Nabors, Hancock, Osborne). Fouled out — GE: none; WW: Carrington.