By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
To many outsiders, Beckley is known as the “City of Champions.” Saturday night, the No. 3-ranked Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles will look to add another piece of hardware to their already massive trophycase.
The No. 2 South Charleston Black Eagles will welcome Beckley to town for an 8 p.m. tip-off at the South Charleston Community Center for the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship. The game will be part of the MSAC Night of Champions event.
The Flying Eagles will be seeking revenge for a loss handed to them earlier this year by the Black Eagles.
“South Charleston is pretty doggone good,” Woodrow coach Ron Kidd said. “They play pretty well. They’ve got an overall great team.”
When the two teams met previously, Woodrow was in a stretch of playing its worst basketball of the season. Beckley had a lead in the opening minutes, but gave it away in a third quarter when they were outscored 18-6 and held to only one field goal. To their credit, Beckley came back to make it 42-41 late in the fourth, but a series of turnovers lead to the loss.
The loss capped a historic 3-game home losing streak for the Flying Eagles and left many scratching their head and wondering if this Woodrow team would meet the lofty expectations of Beckley Basketball.
Then something happened.
Woodrow got hot.
The Flying Eagles rattled off 12 straight wins, including the Big Atlantic Classic AAA Championship.
When asked, the Beckley players often credit the motivation they received from Kidd following their last loss. However, Kidd isn’t willing to take credit for the turnaround.
“It wasn’t too much that I’ve done to help them,” Kidd said. “I think the kids realize the tradition here of Beckley basketball. They refuse to lose. They say they’re not going to lose no more. They’ve been living up to that for the last 12 games.”
Part of living up to those expectations has been the stellar play of Andrew Johnson, Donte Nabors and Chase Hancock.
The three players have really developed into their roles on the team. Nabors is the go-to scorer. Johnson is the quarterback, distributing the ball. Hancock plays shut-down defense. All three are averaging double figures in scoring.
“I think all three of them have taken their game up a notch,” Kidd said. “They’ve been playing the way they’ve been playing and combined with the way our inside guys — Nequan Carrington, Brent Osborne and Nick Deems — have been playing, it’s all coming together.”
Kidd’s team will face a tough test with South Charleston. The Black Eagles are on a 12-game winning streak of their own and are 19-1 on the season, with the only loss coming on Dec. 29 by the hands of Madison Central out of Richmond, Kentucky.
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A host of Flying Eagles will participate in the MSAC Skills Competition Saturday morning before the tournament starts.
Andrew Johnson and Paige Lewis will represent Beckley in the 3-point shootout, while Donte Nabors and Kavita François will take part in the free-throw shooting contest.
François will also join Chase Hancock in the Hot Shot Competition.
Volleyball player Emily Ernest and Beckley soccer’s Drew Wooldridge will receive awards for academic achievement. Ernest has a 4.1 GPA while Wooldridge has a 4.0.
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