By Cam Huffman
When Ripley and Woodrow Wilson met in football this fall, the Vikings ended up with negative yardage for the night.
The basketball team can now understand that feeling.
The No. 3 Flying Eagles (13-4) held Ripley scoreless for more than seven minutes at the end of the first quarter and then into the second Tuesday night at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center to turn a 16-14 Ripley advantage into a 30-16 Beckley lead and then cruised to a 74-63 victory that was never really that close.
Beckley led by as many as 21 and was up 66-46 with 5 minutes to play before letting its reserves finish off its ninth straight victory.
Once 4-4 and out of the Class AAA rankings, the Flying Eagles are now capturing the state’s attention as the No. 3 team in the state’s largest class.
“We want to be No. 1,” said junior guard Donte Nabors, who led the flying Eagles with 22 points. “No. 3 doesn’t mean anything to us. We want to keep climbing to the top. We just work hard in practice and try to come out and play Beckley basketball.”
Ripley (6-13) did a solid job against Beckley’s relentless pressure early in the game, attacking the basket on the break with Jakob Harrison, who led his team with 21 points. The Vikings opened up an early 9-4 lead and were up by 2 with 2:45 to play, when the Woodrow defense started to take control.
Ripley didn’t score for the rest of the quarter, and Nabors hit one of two first-quarter 3-pointers to put his team up 17-16, an advantage it never relinquished.
Nabors went quiet in the second quarter, scoring just one field goal, but Beckley didn’t need a whole lot of offense thanks to its defense.
The Flying Eagles found eight points off the bench in that quarter, including four from Noah Hancock, and that was more than enough as Ripley scored just eight points as a team in the frame.
“I think (the press) really wears them down,” said Beckley head coach Ron Kidd. “We needed that.”
Ahead 35-24 at the half, Beckley made sure it didn’t allow Ripley to start thinking about an upset. The Flying Eagles scored 15 of the second half’s first 21 points, opening up a 50-30 lead.
Junior Chase Hancock scored six of his 13 points in the third quarter and freshman Nequan Carrington scored four of his 11, as Nabors turned from producer to distributor.
“If I’m not scoring, I’m going to help them score,” said Nabors, who wasn’t feeling his best, physically. “They look for me, and I look for them. We play as a team.”
Ripley did put up a late fight as Casey Smith got hot from 3-point range. He finished with 14 points, eight in the final quarter, and helped make the final score more respectable.
The result, though, was never in doubt.
“We were playing against the No. 3 team in the state, and in the first half we were intimidated,” said Ripley head coach Craig Harmon. “We need to learn to play hard all the time. But we’re getting much better all the time.”
Woodrow will be back in action Thursday at Riverside, looking to extend its winning streak to double digits.
“We just want to get it to where it’s like a machine,” said Kidd. “We have to keep getting better and play hard every night.”
Ripley will play at Parkersburg that same night.
Casey Smith 6 0-0 14, Jacob Haynes 0 0-0 0, Drew Harpold 4 1-2 11, Jakob Harrison 9 0-0 21, Charles Sleboda 6 1-5 13, Lucas Layhew 1 0-0 2, Cody Sanders 1 0-0 2. Totals: 27 2-7 63
Woodrow Wilson (13-4)
Andrew Johnson 2 2-2 7, Nicholas Deems 3 1-1 7, Donte Nabors 7 4-4 22, Chase Hancock 4 5-7 13, Nequan Carrington 5 1-1 11, Dai Dai Fortune 1 0-2 3, Noah Hancock 3 0-0 6, Brent Osborne 0 1-2 1, Corey Acord 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 14-19 74.
R 16 8 19 20 — 63
WW 19 18 23 14 — 74
3-point goals — R: 7 (Smith 2, Harpold 2, Harrison 3); WW: 6 (Johnson, Nabors 4, Fortune). Fouled out — none.