By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
The stage inside the Charleston Civic Center was set for a battle of epic proportions.
In the 100 years of boys’ high school basketball tournaments in West Virginia, Hurricane was making its first appearance. For Woodrow Wilson it was old hat. The Flying Eagles have appeared in more than half of those 100 tournaments.
The Redskins first trip lasted one day.
The game stayed tight for four quarters, but the Flying Eagles outlasted Hurricane and came away with the victory, 63-54.
It wasn’t the cakewalk many Flying Eagles fans were probably hoping to see.
Woodrow (22-4) came out cold in the first half. Team leaders Donte Nabors and Andrew Johnson combined for only ninw points over the first 16 minutes, and Chase Hancock seemed to be the only Flying Eagle able to score. He was limited to only 5 minutes of play early, due to a pair of early fouls.
Beckley shot only 37.1 percent from the field in the first two quarters and was 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
The much-talked-about Beckley defense was unable to stop the scoring onslaught of the Redskins, who hit four big first-half 3-pointers and went into the half tied at 32-all.
Then, just as has happened 21 times this season, Beckley coach Ron Kidd made the right adjustments at the half and ignited his dynamic team.
Johnson took over the game, adding 17 points — nine of which came from beyond the arc, including one to open the half that started a 9-0 run for the Flying Eagles.
“When I came down here in 10th grade, we lost in the first game,” Johnson said. “I wanted to win this game and keep playing. We’re refusing to lose and trying to win a state championship.”
“I told our team to just come out and play our style of basketball,” Kidd said. “I thought we were playing their pace — it was fast, but it wasn’t how we wanted to play. We had to get tough on defense.”
Getting tough on defense meant getting Hancock active in the second half. He had seven rebounds and five steals to go along with his 13 points.
“You can tell it,” Kidd said when asked if Chase provides the spark on defense. “It was 32-32 at halftime, and Chase was out in foul trouble. We go out and score nine because of his defense. He provides so much energy on both offense and defense. We need to keep him on the floor.”
That tough defense didn’t stop the Redskins from coming back, though. The tough Hurricane team cut Beckley’s 12-point lead to one with 3:16 to go in the game, after Ian Miles hit a pair of free throws.
However, it was Nabors who took on Woodrow’s motto of “refuse to lose,” hitting a clutch 3-pointer just seconds later to help lead the Flying Eagles to victory. The player of the year contender had 15 points and eight rebounds.
The humble and reserved Nabors, who went 6-for-25 from the field, continued to treat his first trip to Charleston as he has every other game this season — like business.
“I just got to play and not worry about the shots I miss,” he said.
For Beckley, it’s about playing one game at a time and bringing home their record 17th state championship.
“We’ve got to live up to the tradition,” Johnson said. “We know we can play basketball, if we couldn’t we wouldn’t be on the team. Beckley’s a basketball town. We just have a lot of heart.”
The tradition will continue when the Flying Eagles play next on Friday at 9 p.m., against the winner of the South Charleston and Morgantown game.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins