HURRICANE - Lance Sutherland wanted to put his second Hurricane High School basketball team through a trial by fire this season.
After navigating through what the coach called a "murderer's row" of early season games by getting impressive wins at Logan and at home against Capital, the Redskins finally met their match Tuesday night.
Beckley, the King of Mountain State prep hoops, used its physicality and took advantage of Redskin foul trouble in the fourth quarter Tuesday to escape Hurricane with an 83-66 win that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
"That's the kind of game that'll turn your hair gray," said Beckley Coach Ron Kidd with a laugh and a touch of irony, being that Kidd does not have a hair on his head.
Beckley led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, but behind strong bench play and a strong 2-3 zone defense, Hurricane cut the lead to 51-50 late in the third quarter when senior guard Rasaan Harris hit a short jumper.
The Flying Eagles (2-0) led 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, but scored 10 of the first 13 points of the frame to pull away.
"This is a team we feel pretty good about as far as them being scrappy," Kidd said. "They play hard every possession. We might throw the ball all over the gym, but they scrap."
Beckley's tendency toward reckless play led to 18 turnovers in the first three quarters. The Eagles cut that average considerably down the stretch, committing just two in the fourth.
Hurricane center Henry Sorsaia battled foul trouble all game, and picked up his fourth with 6:35 remaining. Once he did, Beckley's advantage on the boards - which was considerable throughout the game - became sheer dominance.
The Flying Eagles grabbed 52 rebounds to Hurricane's 28, had six players with at least five boards and two - sophomore reserve Brent Osborne and first-time starter Nequan Carrington, a 6-foot-3 freshman - with at least 10. Obsorne led all players with 11 rebounds, and was one of five Beckley players to score in double figures, with 14 points.
Carrington had 15, while senior Andrew Johnson and junior Chase Fortune each had 18 to lead the team. Junior Dante Nabors had 14 points.
"We got tired, and our kids - we probably shot, what, 25 or 30 percent from the floor tonight. It wasn't pretty," Sutherland said. "We've been shooting over 58 percent from the floor, but it was one of those nights.
"They're fast. They're damn good, and it was a good test for us."
Hurricane shot 33.8 percent from the floor, but its downfall came in an inability to hit from outside. While Beckley was pounding the glass and getting frequent second-chance buckets, the Redskins were 6-of-30 from 3-point range. Sophomore reserve guard Garrett DeFries was the only Redskins to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor, hitting 6-of-11 shots and leading all players with 20 points.
Johnson had a game-high nine assists. He said that the Eagles' conditioning showed itself in the late going. He also offered some criticism of his team's performance.
"We just like running the ball. The condition we're in, when we pick up the pace we're good, but like when they went into that 2-3 zone we want to be able to slow it down, too," Johnson said. "We need to be able to run our offense, and I don't think we did a great job of doing that."
Beckley was without two of its starters for the game. Junior guard Daizjuan Fortune was injured in a car wreck last weekend, sustaining a broken collarbone, broken rib, broken finger and a punctured lung, He is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. Senior Juwan Walton, a 6-foot-4 standout forward, is currently serving a school-imposed suspension for disciplinary reasons.
The Eagles had not played since opening the season with an 82-56 win over Class AA power Wyoming East on Dec. 11.
Sutherland said the loss provided some perspective for what his team needs to do to achieve its goals.
"We knew we had to play a perfect game to beat them," Sutherland said. "We didn't play a perfect game, obviously. We know what we have to do now if we want to make it to the State Tournament.
"We've got to get back on defense when we play teams like this, and then hopefully we can make a run for it at the end. Last year we faced our murderer's row at the end, this year I wanted us to face it early."
Hurricane plays at Parkersburg on Thursday.
Beckley (2-0) FG 3Pt FT Pts
Nequan Carrington 7-12 0-0 1-5 15
Chase Hancock 7-12 1-2 3-4 18
Nicholas Deems 1-4 0-0 2-2 4