Boys basketball: Nabors, Beckley coming around at just right time
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Don't look now, but the Beckley boys basketball team that began the season with four losses in its first eight games might be playing the best basketball in the state a week before tournament time.
It should not come as a surprise to fans of the sport. After all, the Class AAA No. 3 Flying Eagles (17-4) have 16 state championship banners to prove their credibility as a program.
Still, Beckley's 77-60 win over second-ranked South Charleston (18-2) in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game Saturday night at the South Charleston Community Center was - to this point - the crowning achievement of a season that once looked destined for failure.
"We just got tired of losing. Something had to change. Our motto is 'Refuse to lose' but we just kept losing. That's what we showed tonight, was that our hearts are in this," said junior guard Donte Nabors, who had 25 points and five rebounds in the win.
"We let them back into the game a little bit at times, but we fought back and got the win."
Nabors then added a thought that went beyond the sweltering gyms and freezing weather so commonly associated with high school basketball.
"We know we have to do something for Beckley," he said.
Beckley Coach Ron Kidd, who has coached two Class AAA state championship teams (2004, '08) closed his eyes and smiled when asked for clarification of Nabors' comment.
"If there's any kid that knows what it means to live up to a reputation and a tradition, it's Donte," Kidd said. "It's hard to play for Beckley. There's a lot of criticism that comes with it, and you're under a microscope a lot of the time. With him, it's even more because of his family, because of Gene and because of Brian."
Gene Nabors and Brian Nabors are assistant coaches at Beckley, and Gene - who played at LSU and Robert Morris - is Donte's father.
"What Donte means is that there's a standard to live up to, that the community expects, and the community responds to success. They need that," Kidd said.
Beckley finishes its regular season with a game at Oak Hill on Friday. The Flying Eagles are part of Class AAA's Region 3, which includes South Charleston, No. 4 Greenbrier East (17-2), No. 8 George Washington (16-4) and Princeton (16-5).
"I think we're ready. We've got to keep focus, keep playing hard and play one game at a time," junior forward Chase Hancock said after his 19-point, 11-rebound showing against SC.
Beckley starting point guard Andrew Johnson is the team's only senior.
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GEORGE WASHINGTON Coach Rick Greene noted Saturday that aside from the Patriots' blowout losses to South Charleston (60-40 on Dec. 19) and Beckley (74-51 on Jan. 30) as well as blowout wins by GW, the average score of his team's games this season has been 58-54 in favor of GW.
It thus came as little surprise to Greene or seniors Luke Eddy and Austin Breeden that their win over Hurricane in the MSAC third-place game came down to the wire.
GW overcame a 50-45 deficit in the final 4 minutes Saturday in South Charleston to win 51-50. The Redskins did not score past the 4:09 mark of the final quarter.
The Patriots had the ball with 3.8 seconds left and the lead when Eddy was whistled for a foul prior to GW inbounding the ball. That gave Hurricane (15-5) a chance to get the win under its own basket, but Redskins' guard Rasaan Harris saw his 3-point attempt land off the mark.
"We're used to it. Not saying we're going to win them all, but that's the way we play," Greene said of the back-and-forth nature of the game, which saw 17 lead changes.
"I was really proud of the kids. Mentally, it's really hard to make that (final) stop. You've made the stop that you think probably won the game, and we're most likely at least get Luke to the line, then they get the charge call. So I was really proud of the kids as much as anything to get that last stop."
Eddy had 16 points in the win, and said it was his team's ability to stick to fundamental basketball that enabled it to improve to 16-4. Hurricane had numerous chances to pad its lead down the stretch and came away empty as lob passes from Harris to forwards Henry Sorsaia and Garrett DeFries repeatedly failed to produce points.
"You won't see any of that kind of thing with GW basketball," Eddy said with a laugh. "No, we kind of stick to doing things the simple way. Not going to see a bunch of behind-the-back passes and fancy dribbling. We just have to take it at people."
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THE BIG 10-Cardinal Conference Challenge hit a snag almost as quickly as it became a reality last week.
Poca Coach Allen Osborne said in an email Friday that the scheduled date for the one-day shootout on Saturday, Dec. 14, is in conflict with the state cheerleading championships, also held at the Charleston Civic Center.
The challenge is planned to be the marquis event of the 2013 Hoops Classic, an annual early season event at the Civic Center. Osborne said that Hoops Classic organizer Keith Tyler of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is working to find an alternative date for the challenge, and more would be known by Tuesday.
The challenge would pit teams from the Big 10 Conference, based in North Central W.Va. and including Fairmont Senior, Robert C. Byrd, Bridgeport and North Marion, against Cardinal Conference clubs such as Poca, Sissonville, Herbert Hoover, Tolsia and Scott.
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IF HIS minutes against Beckley were any indicator, South Charleston junior forward Kevin Williams might be on his way back to the potential he showed early in his prep career.
Williams had six points and had seven rebounds against the Flying Eagles while coming off the bench. Sophomore A.D. Cunningham led the Black Eagles with eight boards.
"Kevin gave us some good minutes tonight. He played pretty well," SC Coach Vic Herbert said. "He's been sick and missed a practice or two last week but I thought he performed pretty well coming off the bench."
Williams, the 2011 Kanawha Valley Rookie of the Year when he was at St. Albans, has played sparingly through much of the season at SC.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.