By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
In high school basketball, sometimes it may be easy to tell who is going to win early in the game. However, in games like Greater Beckley Christian (17-4) and Mountain Mission (Va.) (18-10), it comes down to the final 7.3 seconds.
With less than a minute to go in the contest, Mountain Mission’s Tedros Hailu-Mitku sank a layup to tie the game 51-51, drawing a foul from GBC’s Anthony Helton. However, Hailu-Mitku was unable to convert his free throw.
Just seconds later, the Crusader’s Javonne Staunton-Bailey went to the line and converted 1 of his 2 free throws to put his team up 52-51.
What followed was one of the more hectic 7.3 seconds in recent basketball memory.
Challengers’ coach Pawel Mrozik called timeout, giving his team the ball on the sideline and enough time to set up a play.
“We knew what they were going to do,” Greater Beckley coach Dan Burd said. “They were going to get the ball to No. 42 (Hailu-Mitku), and we had to stop them.”
Hailu-Mitku got the ball and charged toward the basket, making contact with any and everything in his path before bouncing the ball off the side of the rim and into the hands of the smallest player on the court -- GBC’s Elisha Kidd.
“I knew I just had to go hard to the rim and get the rebound,” Kidd said. “If I didn’t do that, we were going to lose.”
Kidd grabbed the rebound and was fouled by a Mountain Mission player, sending Kidd to the line.
While official Patrick Standard was discussing the foul with the scorekeeper, Mrozik was giving Standard an ear full, and after a second warning, the Mountain Mission coach was awarded a technical foul for his effort.
Kidd went to the line and missed both of his free throws, but Keith Mullins took the technical shots, sinking both, giving his team the lead 54-51. Staunton-Bailey hit a pair of garbage time free throws to seal the victory for the Crusaders 56-51.
“We came into this game thinking they were a great team, and they were,” Mullins said. “We played well; we played good together. We were trying to rebound from (Friday) night’s loss to Magnolia. We’re just trying to win states.”
The game marked the end of a run that saw GBC play nine games in 14 days, including a 2-hour bus trip to River View on Thursday and a 3-hour bus trip to Magnolia on Friday, and it showed. By the end of the final whistle, the Crusaders looked more like the cast from the TV show “The Walking Dead” than a basketball team.
“Look, it’s going to better prepare us for a run at the state championship,” Burd said. “We’ve never complained. Maybe our guys are tired, maybe not, but we’re in good shape.”
While the victory belonged to the Crusaders, the day belonged to Mullins. The lone senior on senior day was honored with a framed picture highlighting several of his accomplishments in the two years he’s been with Greater Beckley. He was also awarded a signed basketball given to him by the coaching staff for surpassing 1,000 career points earlier this week against RiverView.
“Gosh, I don’t know if I can put into words what Keith brings to this team,” Burd said “What I think about Keith is he does all the things people can’t see. He’s smart. He can run the point when we need him to. He does all those little intangible things. He’s going to be missed — greatly.”
“It’s been great,” Mullins said of his time with GBC. “Everyone welcomed me to the team when I transferred in from George Washington. I chose to go to Greater Beckley, and it was a good choice.”
While it may have been Mullins’ final home game of the regular season, he has one last game to play in the gym he’s called home. The Crusaders will play Sherman on Tuesday night at 7p.m. in the opening round of the Region 3, Section 1 tournament.
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Greater Beckley Christian 56, Mountain Mission 51
Mountain Mission (Va.) (18-10)
Robel Ali 8 0-0 9, Mengesha Mnat 3 0-0 9, John Samuel 0 0-4 0, Scott Graham 2 1-4 5, Tedros Hailu-Mitku 5 4-5 14 Henok Aleymayehu 1 0-0 2, Leul Hirpa 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 5-13 51.
Greater Beckley Christian (17-4)
Javonne Staunton-Bailey 5 9-16 20, Elisha Kidd 5 0-2 11, Adam Cook 0 0-0 0, Brent Daniels 2 0-0 5, Keith Mullins 5 2-2 14, Anthony Helton 1 4-4 6. Totals: 18 15-24 56.
V 11 11 16 13 — 51
GBC 12 17 15 12 — 56
3-point goals — MM: 6 (Ali 3, Mnat 3); GBC: 5 (Mullins 2,Daniels, Kidd, Staunton-Bailey). Fouled out — MM: Graham.