By Dave Morrison

BECKLEY – It’s tough enough to match up with Bluefield’s starting five, which has taken turns this season leading the team.

It’s doubly tough when the team’s leading scorer is out and his replacement comes in and hits four 3s in the first quarter.

But that was exactly what happened in Bluefield’s 86-63 victory against James Monroe Monday in the Big Atlantic Classic Class AA championship.

Bluefield, which has now played 13 straight road games and has not played at home since Dec. 16, will meet Wyoming East Saturday at 2 p.m. in the tournament championship. Bluefield’s lone home game this season was a season-opening overtime victory against the Warriors.

Braeden Crews missed the game with a hip flexor.

Caden Fuller stepped in early and did not miss, hitting his first four 3s as Bluefield shot out to a 28-9 first quarter lead in the game’s first 5:32.

After that, Bluefield was able to cruise.

Bluefield is now 11-3 on the season.

James Monroe coach Matt Sauvage chalked up the loss to simply playing a better opponent. 

“They are one of the best teams in the state and deservedly so,” Sauvage said. “We came out in the first backing the the 2-3 (zone) and if they can beat us with the 3 they will and well, they came out on fire.”

Fuller ended up hitting 5 of 7 3s in the first half which spurred a 51-28 lead. Kaulin Parris was 3 for 3 as the Beavers hit 8 of 12 in the first half.

“We definitely have a few players who can play off the bench,” Parris said. “Caden, he had a heck of a night. He shot the lights out.”

And Bluefield flashed its versatility after that first start, which saw the Beavers hit 21 of 33 shots (63.6 percent). The Beavers didn’t make a 3 in the second half, going 0 for 4 but they didn’t need to make 3s, with big man Sean Martin doing his thing inside. 

The 6-5 future Mountaineer football player was 11 for 12 inside for 23 points, and was a matchup nightmare around the basket.

At one point he reached down to help James Monroe’s Eli Allen off the ground in the first half and picked him up from the ground with one arm.

“His size is crazy,” Sauvage said.  “Skill, footwork, hand-eye coordination, he’s good. He’s going to OK at WVU.”

“We just have to keep working hard,” Martin said. “Honestly I think this team can win a state championship. We just have to work hard as a team.”

In addition to his 23 points – one from his career-high 24 points against Wyoming East in a season-opening overtime victory – Martin had eight rebounds and five assists.

Martin continually got to the basket in the second half when James Monroe went more to a man defense. And he wasn’t alone. Tyrese Hairston (4 for 4, eight points) and Jahiem House (3-4 from the floor, 6 points) continually got to the rim.

Fuller finished with 19 points for the Beavers and Parris added 14.

Eli Allen, a freshman who recently joined the team after an injury kept him out to start the season, had 20 to led James Monroe. Shad Sauvage added 14 and Collin Fox added 12.

Bluefield finished the night shooting 60.7 from the field.James Monroe entered the game shooting 49 percent from the field.

James Monroe played well enough to win most games, shooting 50 percent from the floor (24-48)) and 47.1 percent from 3 (8-17). James Monroe came in averaging 54 points a game and shooting at a 37 percent clip.

Bluefield outrebounded the Mavericks 31-18. The Beavers had 25 assists and just 11 turnovers.

Both Bluefield and James Monroe cancelled their regular season matchups to play in the Big Atlantic Classic.

Both teams had played at the Armory this season in the New River CTC Invitational. In fact, Bluefield has played three games at the Armory in Beckley and one at Brushfork Armory, the Beavers home floor.

“It’s hard to play in the road 13 times straight,” Martin said. “We’re just trying to get every time we can. We’re getting better each day.”

Bluefield does return home Wednesday, hosting border rival Graham.

Bluefield 86, James Monroe 63

Bluefield (11-3)

Caden Fuller 7-12 0-0 19, Tyrese Hairston 4-4 0-0 8, Jahiem House 3-4 0-1 6, Kaulin Parris 5-8 1-2 14, Sean Martin 11-12 1-1 23, Ryker Brown 1-2 1-2 3, Isaiah Rivers 1-4 0-0 2, Lavon McClarrin 0-0 0-0 0, Ray Borwn 0-0 0-0 0, Jaylan Green 0-4 0-0 0, Ja’eon Flack 2-5 1-23 5, Buster Jordan 3-6 0-0 6. TOTALS: 37-61 4-86

James Monroe (3-10)

Shad Sauvage 5-13 0-0 14, Andrew Hazelwood 1-2 1-2 4, Eli Allen 8-12 2-3 20, Clay Williams 2-5 0-0 4, Cameron Thomas 3-9 3-3 9, Josh Burks 0-0 0-0 0, Adam Durham 0-1 0-0 0, Collin Fox 5-6 1-1 12, Ryan Hunter 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-48 7-9 63

Bluefield               30    21    21    14  –  86

James Monroe    20      8    16    19  –  63

Three-point field goals – B: 8-16 (Fuller 5-9, Parris 3-4, Rivers 0-1, Flack 0-2), JM: 8-17 (Sauvage 4-8, Hazelwood 1-2, Allen 2-4, Williams 0-2, Fox 1-1). Renounds – B: 31 (Martin 8), JM: 18 (Thomas 7), Assists – B: 25 (Hairston 8), JM: 16 (tAllen 4, Williams 4, Thomas 4), Steals – B: 12 (Hairsotn 3, House 3), JM: 3 (Allen 2). Fouled out – None.