State Tournament: Streaking Flying Eagles draw comparisons to 2004 team
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state's most-decorated Class AAA high school basketball team is two victories away from the 17th state championship in the school's history.
Beckley claimed its 18th consecutive victory on Wednesday in its 63-54 verdict against Mountain State Athletic Conference rival Hurricane in the quarterfinals.
Coach Ron Kidd, who is in his 13th season on the Beckley bench, has two state titles to go with the other 15 won during the program's storied annals.
The inevitable question has arisen: Is the 2012-13 team the best Kidd has had?
It's a question he didn't want to answer following his team's quarterfinal win, although he referenced the upper portion of his team that won the championship in 2004.
"You had Shane Maynard, Mario Walton, William Dillard, Corey Harris ..." Kidd said. "I can't say that right now.
"I feel like these kids right now, they're scrappy and more scrappy than any team I've had. They have a lot of heart and a lot of guts, so that's kind of the difference right now."
The 2004 squad was his first championship team and steamrolled Robert C. Byrd 85-46 in the quarterfinal round before squeezing out a three-point victory against Huntington and an eight-point championship game win over Hedgesville.
On Wednesday, Beckley played nine players at least seven minutes in a game that was in question for almost 32 minutes.
His most important player - point guard Andrew Johnson - is the only senior on the roster.
He had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Wednesday's victory and the other four starters had at least seven rebounds each.
For the Flying Eagles, seven of the nine players who participated scored in the contest.
While the stats prove nothing, the big question might never be answered, but guaranteed to be asked again.
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AFTER 100 YEARS, Hurricane's first appearance in the state tournament was a memorable one, with the Redskins pushing No. 2 seed Beckley to the brink before running out of gas in a 63-54 loss.
Senior point guard Rasaan Harris said Wednesday that the team's postseason run has altered the perception of a community that has traditionally put baseball and football ahead of his sport of choice.
"It wasn't just our school, I mean, it was everybody, the whole community; the city of Hurricane and Putnam County in general," Harris said of the support shown to the team. "There was just signs and banners and everything through the whole community.
The support figured heavily in the attendance for the morning session, which was officially announced as 7,419.
"We did that for them," he said of their season, which ended with a 20-6 record. "They did it for us. We made history, and it feels good."
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MAGNOLIA SENIOR Mark Winters finished his career as the school's all-time leading scorer, but there was another member of the Blue Eagles' starting lineup connected to that title.
Winters surpassed former West Virginia guard Ted Talkington as Magnolia's all-time scoring leader but before Talkington, there was John Boswell. A 1989 Class AA All-State selection, Boswell finished his career with 1,279 points and at the time was the school's all-time leader.
Boswell's son, freshman Preston Boswell, is the Blue Eagles' starting point guard. He had five points, three steals and an assist in Magnolia's loss to Wheeling Central.
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MAGNOLIA COACH Dave Tallman guided the Blue Eagles to the 2000 state title in the school's first appearance at the state tournament. Three years later, he won his second championship in the school's second berth, making the Blue Eagles 6-0 in the state tournament.
Since then, Magnolia has gone 1-5 in the state tournament, with its only win during that time being a 2007 quarterfinal upset of No. 2 Bluefield - the only time a No. 7 has defeated a No. 2 under the seeding format that began in 2005.