BECKLEY (WVDN) – It looked like a complete blowout was on the way, but the Greenbrier East Spartans continue to be the most resilient team in the state of West Virginia after their miraculous 74-70 victory over the fourth-ranked Huntington Highlanders in the New River Community and Technical College Invitational at the Raleigh County Armory in Beckley on Friday, Jan. 6.
The Spartans, ranked sixth, trailed 26-11 after the first quarter and then were down by 18 early in the second before the tide started to turn.
The Highlanders (6-1) jumped out to a 14-5 lead right out of the gate, fueled by explosive plays from Mikey Johnson, a 3-pointer from Wayne Harris and two treys from Gavin Locow. Later in the opening period, Johnson got loose for an explosive dunk, and it looked as if the Spartans were not going to match up on this night.
But after the 18-point deficit, East (5-1) began to just hang around and slowly crawl their way back into the contest.
Jude Libby converted an old-fashioned, 3-point play; Kaiden Huffman scored inside; and Goose Gabbert put in 4 straight points; and just like that, East went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 31-21. It was 33-23 at halftime.
Huntington got a quick 3 from Jamari Tubbs to open the second half, but East’s adjustments were obvious. They went to an unlikely hero in Chris Sinclair, known as a defensive stalwart, and got some impressive buckets from him. Adam Seams found him open for a score, and after a Bryson Brammer trifecta, Seams found Sinclair again for a bucket and just a 40-33 deficit with 5:20 to go in the third quarter. Sinclair would score two more baskets in the period, including an open mid-range jumper; and the Spartans trailed just 42-39. Seams drained an open 3-pointer later in the quarter, but the Highlanders still held a 52-48 lead, but the momentum in the building had shifted to the Spartan side of the floor.
A 7-2 East run started the fourth quarter, and it was all Seams. The senior nailed another t3, scored on a driving layup and found Sinclair for 2 more after a beautiful crossover on the defender.
Libby was East’s last and final hero of the night. He hit two critical 3s in the span of a minute and gave East a 4-point, 67-63, advantage. Huffman and Gabbert combined to go 7-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch to ice the game and complete one of the better comebacks in Spartan basketball history.
Seams got a triple double, something that is almost never seen at the school. He had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Gabbert led East with 23 points. Sinclair and Huffman added 10 points apiece.
Johnson led the Highlanders with 23 points and 10 boards.
Things do not get easier for the Spartans as they will travel to Class AAA top ranked Shady Spring this Friday night, Jan. 13. While on that topic, the question that needs asked is why the Spartans have yet to play a game at Spartan Gym. The schedule so far has been one of, if not the most, bizarre one in team history. Their first home game is scheduled for the following Saturday night, Jan. 14, against Spring Mills, the only team to beat East this season; but without researching, I would bet the Spartans are the only team in the state to not play at home yet in 2022-23.