By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
The question surrounding Greater Beckley Christian heading into Saturday night’s game with Tug Valley was if the Crusaders were a contender or a pretender.
After a 61-60 loss to No. 2 Tug Valley, the jury may still be out on the young team.
Greater Beckley blew an early 10-point lead midway through the game and a late 8-point lead in the final seconds for its second loss of the season.
The Crusaders had a 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, but squandered it away on missed shots and turnovers. Tug Valley’s Mikey Newsome energized the Panther offense with a 3-pointer.
What immediately followed was through no fault of the players on the court.
Legendary coach Dave Barksdale, now an assistant at Greater Beckley, returned to the court that bears his name, and, perhaps reminiscent of his days at Woodrow Wilson, received a technical foul for arguing a call with an official.
That led Newsome to hit a pair of free throws, and Tug Valley followed that up with Hayden Sturgill layup to cut the 23-22.
The following play, Greater Beckley lost the ball, which led to another Mikey Newsome basket and a 24-23 Tug Valley lead.
To the credit of the Crusaders, they battled back, taking the lead on a Javonne Staunton-Bailey layup and a Keith Mullins 3-pointer to open up a run that would see GBC up by as many as 12.
However, the veteran Tug Valley team proved why its a force to be reckoned with and battled back, cutting the lead to 60-57 late in the fourth quarter.
Crusaders’ big man Brent Daniels picked up his fifth foul with under a minute to go, sending Thomas Basden to the line.
He sunk both free throws to trail 60-59.
GBC brought the ball up the court, passing between its players to wear down the clock. However, when Keith Mullins passed the ball to a wide open Paul David Payne, the sophomore saw a shot he couldn’t pass up.
He fired up a shot, only to see it go sailing out of bounds, giving the Panthers the ball with just seconds remaining.
With 8 seconds on the clock, Tug Valley’s Austin Brewer scored the game-winning bucket.
“Well, it was one of the best games of the year, probably. Gosh I hate to come out on the losing end of it,” GBC coach Dan Burd said.
“I think their experience took over; our inexperience showed on the floor. Look, our guys have to grow from this. We would have won the game had we not taken that last shot. Paul was told not to shoot. I told them unless it was a layup, let’s make them send us to the line.”
Burd was left with the unfortunate task of explaining the technical foul on Barksdale, who after the game chased after the officials toward the locker room, questioning their calls during the game.
“I don’t think it’s a distraction,” Burd said of Barksdale’s behavior. “Everyone knows coach is intense, and what he got called for I have questions about. We’ll just leave it at that.”
One bright spot for the Crusaders was the continued great play of guards Javonne Staunton-Bailey and Keith Mullins. Bailey had 28 points and Mullins had 20.
“We play with a lot of heart; we played hard tonight. And we played really good defense, we had a couple lapses, but our guys fought. If we continue to fight, our guys will be hard to beat.”
Greater Beckley will return to action Monday night when it welcomes Midland Trail. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.
E-mail: jrollins@register-herald and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins
Tug Valley 61, Greater Beckley 60
Tug Valley (15-3)
Austin Brewer 4 2-2 11, Mike Newsome 8 4-4 27, Thomas Basden 4 4-6 12, Aaron Muncy 2 1-1 5, Hayden Sturgill 2 0-1 4, Corey Dillon 1 0-5 2. Totals: 21 11-19 61.
Greater Beckley (10-2)
Javonne Staunton-Bailey 9 9-15 29, Adam Cook 0 0-0 0, Brent Daniels 2 1-2 5, Keith Mullins 6 5-7 20, Anthony Helton 0 0-0 0, Ethan Lehman 0 0-0 0, Elisha Kidd 2 0-1 4 Totals: 19 15-29 60.
V 11 14 12 21 — 61
H 21 5 20 13 — 60
3-point goals — TV: 8 (Newsome 7, Brewer) ; GB: 6 (Mullins 5, Staunton-Bailey). Fouled out — GB: Helton, Daniels.