By the time Corey Acord scored the game’s final point, the celebration had begun.
After an early season struggle, Woodrow Wilson has won its 17th consecutive game, a 79-62 victory over Riverside.
The reward? A trip to Charleston and a chance to win the 17th state title for the “City of Champions.”
“It’s a good feeling to have your team go to Charleston and showcase your team in front of the whole state of West Virginia,” Beckley coach Ron Kidd said. It will be Kidd’s 10th state tournament appearance as head coach.
If a game could be symbolic of an entire season, Tuesday night’s Classs Region 3 co-final was it.
The Flying Eagles started the game slow, getting behind the 8-ball early in the first quarter, 16-14, before making the adjustments needed at the half to jump out to a commanding lead and the victory.
“I tell ya what, if you’ve watched us this season, we haven’t played a good 32 minutes of basketball,” Kidd said. “We pulled it together in the end. I’m so proud of our kids. They gutted it out.”
Questions surrounded the team’s leading scorer, Donté Nabors, and whether he would be able to play. Nabors was injured Friday night when he got tangled up with Greenbrier East’s Obi Romeo, leaving the player of the year candidate with bruised ribs.
The questions were answered 10 minutes into the game when Nabors hit his first shot. He’d go on to finish with 16 points.
But the real firepower came from Andrew Johnson, who was playing his final game on Dave Barksdale Court. The Flying Eagles captain had 24 points.
“Coming into the game, I was excited to come in and play my last game here,” Johnson said. “I’m actually just glad to be playing here. We could have went to Charleston, but we’re here. I’m really happy it came here. I didn’t go out the way I wanted to. I feel like we could have played a lot better.”
Helping Johnson pick up the pace on offense was the duo of Brent Osborne and freshman Nequan Carrington.
“I didn’t have to play like a freshman,” Carrington said. “I just had to be a ball player. Just hard work. You learn over time how to be adjusted to everything. It starts to come easier and easier. You gotta learn how to play every minute for 32 minutes.”
Osborne hit a pair of big 3-pointers early in the third quarter to help swing the momentum -- and the lead -- in favor of Beckley.
“I just try to come in and provide a spark,” Osborne said. “Everyone on this team is refusing to lose.”
Osborne worked his way from the bench to the starting lineup this season, a move he credits to the leadership of Johnson.
“Drew’s like a big brother to me,” Osborne said. “When I came up as a freshman behind Drew he really helped me a lot. He helped me learn how to do things the right way. He helped me learn how practices go. Now we’re both on the same page. It’s really clicking for us.”
Nabors’ injured ribs might still be a point of conversation going into next week’s state tournament.
“They’re very sore. I’m going to ice them and rest,” Nabors said. “My teammates knew I had a serious injury. Drew and Brent stepped up a lot. We work as a team. We don’t look for one guy. That’s Beckley basketball.”
Nabors will have a week to rest as the team looks on to Charleston and the state tournament.
“I read it today in the newspaper that this is the 100th state basketball tournament,” Osborne said. “We want to bring back the 17th banner to Beckley. We’ve secretly been talking about what it means to be a part of that fraternity. We’re working for it.”
“It means a lot to be going to Charleston,” Johnson said. “I felt like we should have been going last year. This is our year to go to states.”
Coach Ron Kidd echoed those sentiments.
“We won’t know who we play until Friday,” Kidd said. “It’s the 100th anniversary of the state tournament. It wouldn’t be right if Woodrow hadn’t been there.”
— E-mail: jrollins@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
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Marcus Reed 6 4-6 17, Tamar Lawson 2 4-4 8, Quan Brock 3 0-0 8, Nick Light 7 2-2 17, Tyus Wood 3 2-2 9, Trevor Smith, Josh Carpenter 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-15 61.
Woodrow Wilson (21-4)
Corey Acord 1 0-0 2, Andrew Johnson 8 6-7 24, Nick Deems 0 0-0 0, Jaylon Breckenridge 2 0-0 6, Donte Nabors 5 4-4 16, Chase Hancock 1 0-1 3, Dai Dai Fortune 0 0-0 0, Noah Hancock 1 0-0 2, Nequan Carrington 6 3-5 15, Brent Osborne 4 1-3 11, Devan Bentley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 14-20 79.
R 16 19 16 10 — 61
WW 14 22 23 20 — 79
3-point goals — R: 5 (Brock 2, Reed, Light, Wood); WW: 9 (Nabors 2, Osborne 2, Johnson 2, Breckenridge 2, Hancock). Fouled out — None.