Without starting point guard Elijah Edwards Saturday night, Greater Beckley head coach Brian Helton knew his Crusaders would have to win in the paint if they were to beat Trinity.
They did just that.
Greater Beckley center Isiah Hairston shot 9-of-18 from the floor and finished with a team-high 24 points, taking advantage of second chance opportunities as the Crusaders survived a late rally for a 68-58 win over the Warriors in Prosperity.
"That was the thing that helped us, we did well on the offensive glass," Helton said. "That's something we've really been working on. We've got size and we got kids who play hard, so there was a lot of great effort. I thought every one of our kids did a great job trying to keep balls alive and get second chance opportunities.
"As far as Isaiah, I thought he just worked hard tonight. He worked hard to get position and clean up on the glass and he was just a warrior tonight. When he brings it like that and he's active and physical in the paint, I don't think there's anybody in the state that can really stop him around the rim."
For the Crusaders, that dominance in the paint was established early.
After Trinity's Seth Goins knotted the game at 5-5, Greater Beckley closed the quarter on a 14-4 run and maintained a double-digit lead throughout the first half. The Crusaders a 39-27 advantage into the intermission.
"We can't figure out the first quarter," Trinity head coach John Fowkes said. "We came out of the gates slow and spotted them 10 points in the first quarter. If we don't spot them that there, I think we win the game. That's what I told the kids. I'm proud of their fight. That's the biggest team in the state, Class AAA, AA or A. I haven't seen a team bigger than them and it's not just in the post. Their guards are long, too."
The trend of the first two quarters continued with Greater Beckley taking a 13-point lead into the fourth, but a quick surge sparked by sharpshooting from downtown quickly turned the tides.
Back to back 3-pointers from Noah Kurilko and Carter Anderson made it a five-point game with just under five minutes left.
"It was just confidence," Fowkes said of the run. "In the first quarter they pressured us and we had guys that got really rattled. I didn't understand that because we practice that. We clamped up a little and I told them to believe in themselves and they did. We're young, so confidence is the key."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Crusaders had an answer.
Going back to Hairston inside, they were able to cushion the lead and with 2:30 left, senior Thad Jordan nailed a trey that served as the dagger, making it a 61-49 game.
The final three points of Goins' 26-point performance made it a 10-point game in the waning seconds.
"Their kids played really hard and they're very well-coached," Helton said. "They did a good job of just continuing to play hard and stay in the ball game. I'm glad our kids made plays when they needed to and held on for the win."
Both teams will return to action Monday when Greater Beckley hosts its second annual MLK Classic. Trinity will play Oak Hill at 11:15 a.m., while Greater Beckley will have a rematch with defending state champion Webster County. The Highlanders defeated Greater Beckley in last year's Region 3 co-final.
"It's a really good event. We're going to have all levels of teams here from JV to national prep teams," Helton said. "It's all-day basketball and just $8. It's really exciting with some great matchups. There will be a lot of players with college scholarship offers on the floor and it should be an entertaining day."
Seth Goins 26, Carter Anderson 6, Flecther Hartsock 19, Drew Boczek 4, Noah Kurilko 3
Tha Jordan 12, Isaiah Hairston 24, Kristian Krunic 5, Ezra rumheller 5, Sean Hoskins 13, Kaden Smallwoood 8, Luka Seselj 1
T: 9 18 14 17 — 58
GB: 19 19 16 14 — 68
3-point goals — T: 7 (Goins 5, Anderson 1, Kurilko 1); GBC: 4 (Jordan 2, Drumheller 1, Hoskins 1); Fouled Out — None.