Picture, Athleticism, shooters and size, Bluefield has a full compliment of the three. No. 3 Bluefield hosts No. 1 Shady Spring Friday at Brushfork.
By Dave Morrison
BECKLEY – Bluefield has flashed its enormous offensive arsenal during an eight-game win streak, seven straight in which the Class AA No. 3 Beavers scored 80-plus points.
The matchup problems for an opponent’s defense alone are a nightmare and can bring on migraines.
You only need ask Wyoming East coach Derek Brooks, whose Warriors lost to Bluefield 90-43 Saturday in the championship of the Big Atlantic Classic
“They are very good,” Brooks said. “I’ll give them all the credit in the world. They have great pieces for every part of the puzzle. They have a great point guard (Braden Crews)who can shoot it. They have shooters everywhere. They have a great inside game with (6-5 WVU football signee Sean) Martin and (Jaheim) House. (WVU football kicker signee Kaulin) Parris shoots the lights out. They have a lefty point guard who handles the ball well. He doesn’t look to score but he dishes it around and then you’ve got (Caden) Fuller coming off the bench who can shoot the lights out of it, too. They are a great all-around team.”
But chief among those matchup problems when facing Bluefield is handling the vaunted unrelenting pressure defense. When you haven’t faced it before, the learning curve is unforgiving.
Bluefield’s defense caused 27 turnovers against Wyoming East, leading to 39 points.
“I had a freshman and a sophomore trying to bring the ball against Bluefield’s pressure, and they’d never seen it before,” Brooks said. “You can’t simulate that pressure. The speed, the height, the agility of those guys, we can’t match that in our practice.”
Led by that pressure, the Beavers scored 15 of the game’s first 17 points and led 22-5 after the first quarter.
Up 25-8, that pressure keyed an 18-0 run that gave Bluefield a 43-8 lead with 3:06 remaining in the first half. Game. Set. Match.
As Bluefield coach Buster Large said, noting the old analogy, “defense leads to offense.”
The team feeds off it.
“We were trapping everywhere, getting easy steals and finishing in transition,” said Crews, who scored the first points of his career in the championship game of the BAC in 2017 against Poca. “When we play defense like that and get after everybody and cause turnovers were are going to win a lot of games.”
The press wasn’t at its apex in December. But many of the Beavers were coming off another extended season in which the Beavers advanced to yet another Class AA football championship game.
“Our press wasn’t very good at the first of the year,” Large said. “But we worked on it and we worked on it in practice. (Assistant) coach Tony Webster is very big on defense and we learned some things and our kids accepted their roles.”
The results certainly bear that out.
Bluefield’s next game is its biggest when the Beavers host undefeated, Class AA No. 1 Shady Spring. The Tigers already own a victory, 73-70, over Bluefield last month. It was Bluefield’s last loss.
Since then the Beavers have won eight in a row, the last seven in which Bluefield is averaging 87.7 points per game. The Beavers are shooting 57.1 percent (194-340) from the floor over the course of the streak, including 50 percent from 3 (50-100).
Shady has the veteran guard presence to handle the pressure, and could have point guard Tommy Williams back after the four-year starter missed the last four games with an injury. Coach Ronnie Olson said he will give it a go in practice over the next couple days to see if Williams can go.
Both point guards in this matchup – Crews and Williams, if he can return – are 1,000-point scorers.
But Shady Spring is deep even without Williams. In the last four games the Tigers have made 53 3 pointers, 13.3 per game. That kind of production can quickly offset the momentum of a press, even one that is rolling.
Shady Spring has made 143 3s this season (9.5 per game) and 11 different Tigers have made a 3 in a varsity game this season.
All four of the Chapman brothers who play for Shady Spring – senior twins Haven and Dane and freshmen twins Braden and Cole – have made 3s.