Friday night’s matchup between Woodrow Wilson and Greater Beckley Christian had nothing on the line except bragging rights.
Perhaps that was enough.
By the time the ball was tipped, the Armory was filled to a capacity I haven’t seen since the 2018 Big Atlantic Classic when Westside and Wyoming East played.
It was the first matchup between the two programs, but maybe it’s a sign of what’s to come.
“It was a good feeling in there,” Woodrow head coach Ron Kidd said. “I like that people came out and wanted to see the game. They really cheered for both teams tonight and it was a great atmosphere.”
Woodrow’s matchups with Logan and Shady Spring in the Little General Battle for the Armory exceeded Friday night’s crowd.
Notice a trend?
It’s no secret attendance has steadily slipped over the last decade. There’s been an argument to move Beckley basketball games out of the Armory because of the lack of attendance.
Over the last three weeks, the Flying Eagles may have found an answer — more games against local opponents and historic rivals.
Fortunately that solution may be coming sooner than you think.
When Woodrow exits the MSAC at the end of the school year, they’ll have the freedom to schedule whoever they please, whenever they please.
“By getting out of the MSAC we can schedule teams that are a little bit closer,” Kidd said. “Princeton used to be a rivalry, (and) we’ll play Oak Hill twice. We’ll just get to play teams around here that are closer. It’ll be easier for the crowd to get to.”
Sign me up for yearly games against Oak Hill, Shady Spring and potentially Logan, Wheeling Park and Fairmont Senior.
And games against the latter three aren’t something to rule out down the road.
“The great thing about the game tonight was that it’s a Friday,” Kidd said. “In the past, we’ve played Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. In the MSAC we play Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. They’re not really great nights and Wednesday is a church night. If we schedule some of those games against teams that have to travel, we can have that on a Friday where it’s the weekend.”
No offense to Spring Valley, who gave the Flying Eagles a thriller in a 75-72 win in the Armory earlier this season, but local fans don’t care about a matchup against a team that’s on the edge of Kentucky.
Take a look at the Woodrow dynasty from the 1990s.
The matchup between Logan and Woodrow in the 1990 Class AAA semifinal set a record for the largest crowd in state tournament history. Those are details that matter.
Scavenge through any of those ‘90s matchups. Fairmont Senior, Wheeling Park, etc. They were all thrillers.
The argument could be made that playing a Class A school (like Greater Beckley) or a Class AA school (Like Fairmont Senior or Logan) doesn’t help you improve.
But it’d be a foolish one.
Over the last five years Fairmont Senior has been one of the best programs in the entire state. I’ve had several coaches approach me with the belief they could’ve won a Class AAA title during a dominant run the led to five Class AA title game appearances.
Logan features Evans Award candidate and Division l prospect David Early and was nearly unstoppable in the foutth quarter against the Flying Eagles.
Shady, a heavy favorite to be in the Class AA title game, handed Woodrow a loss on the Armory floor and appears to be loaded even after all-staters Luke LeRose and Tommy Williams move on next year.
And, last but not least, Greater Beckley was within seven points in the final two minutes of Friday’s game. It’s also worth noting Woodrow made a run to the 2016 state semifinals with a trio of players who transferred from Greater Beckley that summer.
“We kind of play everybody anyway,” Kidd said. “It will be a whole lot easier to make our schedule so people can come and watch even if they have to travel.”
Just over 11 years removed from their last state title, the Flying Eagles are still largely a standard for success with a target on their collective back. Next year hopefully more people locally will get to see that as their team of choice laces up on the other side.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @TjackRH