State Tournament: Collier, Beavers handle Huskies
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Free throws proved costly for Bluefield, but luckily, for the Beavers, not at the price of the game at the state tournament on Thursday.
Despite shooting 15-of-30 from the line in the second half, top-seeded Bluefield defeated No. 8 seed North Marion 62-51 in the Class AA quarterfinals on Thursday at the Charleston Civic Center. The Beavers will face Robert C. Byrd/Tolsia in the semifinals at 7:15 p.m. today.
Bluefield Coach Charles Large cited several factors that kept the Beavers from creating further separation, but few played as large as free throws.
"No. 1, free throw shooting, which we're going to do very early in the morning," Large said. "We're much better than that.
"We played through a lot of factors and good teams normally do that. I have a lot of confidence in these young men. They always find a way to win, and that's the sign of a good team. We'll work on what we've got to work on in the morning, and try to do a little bit better job (tonight), and hopefully, we'll eliminate some of those factors."
While free throws plagued the Beavers (23-3), Bluefield guard Lykell Collier shined as North Marion (16-9) focused its defensive pressure on junior Anthony Eades.
"Basically, I knew coming into (the game), they were probably looking to double-team Eades, because he's a good shooter," Collier said, "so I just had to create shots for myself and create shots for my teammates and just penetrate, find the open gaps."
Collier posted game-highs in points (17), assists (nine) and steals (five), while Eades fought the pressure to finish with a hard-earned 15 points.
North Marion Coach Chris Freeman acknowledged the game plan: the Huskies identified Eades as the player to stop.
"I thought we did a great job on Eades," Freeman said. "He's a great player. Collier, we did not do such a great job on and he was able to get other guys involved, which he's very good at."
Offensively, Collier penetrated to draw attention, creating shots for himself and teammates. On the defensive end, Collier brought pressure with his speed and awareness jumping into the passing lanes.
For all Collier and the Beavers executed well, still Bluefield struggled to create the comfort room it would have liked.
The Beavers began the fourth with a nine-point lead. Though North Marion never cut the deficit closer than eight from that point, it wasn't because the Huskies had a lack of chances.
"We had opportunities," Freeman said. "We're the eight seed playing the one seed, and to be done seven or eight, nine, right there going into the fourth, you still feel you got an opportunity to win the ball game. Unfortunately, we couldn't take care of the ball down the stretch."
While Bluefield's subpar free throw shooting opened the door for North Marion, the Huskies' 19 turnovers prevented them from capitalizing.
"We said they're giving us every chance in the world to keep us in this game, because they were missing the front end of one-and-ones, they were not finishing their free throws," Freeman said. "Unfortunately, every time they did that, we come down and turn it over, didn't get a shot."
Senior Matt Cain led the Huskies with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Cody Opron contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Cameron Wilson scored 13 points.
For Bluefield, D.J. Edwards and Corey Coppola scored 13 points apiece to join Collier and Eades in double figures offensively.