To say it has been an interesting week for the Greenbrier East boys basketball team would be the biggest understatement in Spartan history.
After not stepping on the court for over two weeks, East was all set to play the Oak Red Devils on Wednesday, April 21 in the Region 3, Section 2 tournament.
However, about 20 minutes before tipoff, players were told they had to go home due to Covid-19 and the game would be postponed. This caused a social media uproar among Spartan parents and fans. No explanation was given for the postponement and many feared right then and there that East’s season was over. Many rumors have swirled as to what or who had the power to make that last-minute cancel, but that is another story for another day.
Anyway, the game got rescheduled for Thursday, April 22, but East had to travel to Oak Hill instead of hosting the contest causing even more unrest for the parents and players.
The Spartans used all the turmoil to fuel their own fire and defeated the Red Devils 61-48 but lost to the Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles 66-57 on Saturday, April 24 at Fairlea without eight players.
Against Oak Hill, East got off to a quick start with two William Gabbert 3-pointers and a steal and score for Adam Seams. Oak Hill’s Ethan Vargo-Thomas got a bucket inside, but Bailee Coles answered with a trey and the Spartans led 11-4 with 5:30 left in the first quarter.
A couple of possessions later, Coles had one of the better dunks in recent memory when he got the step on his defender down the baseline and threw down a one-handed thunderous jam, then he had a nice assist to Gabbert and his Spartans were up 15-6. Oak Hill creeped back into the contest, but Coles hit three foul shots after being fouled on a long-range shot and East led 23-16 after one.
Gabbert hit a short jumper early in the second and Coles followed with a blow-by layup and at that point the Spartans led 31-22. Seams would find Coles on a long pass for two and Aidan Huffman scored a layup at the buzzer. East led 37-26 at the break.
However, the cruise control East wore down a little in the third quarter as the Red Devils started to chip away at the lead.
Samuel Crist started the scoring with a score and Camden Craddock followed that with two more. Coles stopped the mini-run with a layup, but Craddock scored four more consecutive points and Oak Hill had pulled within five points at 39-34. Then, after two straight hoops by Coles, Oak hill’s Jacob Perdue hit two threes, and East led just 45-42 entering the fourth quarter.
And that is when a youngster stepped up for East.
With the Spartans clinging to a 49-48 lead after Perdue sank two free throws, little-used Ryan Cole, who was brought up from the JV squad to replace the ineligible East players, drained a 3-pointer from the right corner. On the next possession, Cole made a tough contested shot underneath, and just like that the Spartans were back up by six points, 54-48.
After those two buckets from Cole, East seized the momentum and never let it go. They held Oak Hill scoreless the rest of the way, hit 6-of-7 foul shots down the stretch and secured a big victory.
Speaking about Cole’s three, head coach Bimbo Coles said, “Maybe the biggest shot made since I’ve been coaching here.”
Coles finished with 27 points. Gabbert had 21.
Perdue led Oak Hill with 16.
East (10-3) lost to Beckley Saturday. They were undermanned and they were tired. The coaches and players would never use that as an excuse, but it was easy to see. With just four regular varsity players and hardly anyone on the bench, the Eagles took advantage — to take anything away from them as the Eagles did play well also.
East led 16-15 after one, but Dewayne Richardson, Ben Gilliam and Elijah Redfern played well for the Eagles the rest of the half and Beckley led 27-25 at halftime.
Coles made a nice pass to Tucker Via who converted a reverse layup early in the third that pulled the Spartans to within 30-28. However, the next two plays turned the tide of the game in Beckley’s favor. Redfern got an offensive rebound and put it back in, and Maddox McMillan drilled a left-wing 3-pointer that gave the Eagles a 35-28 lead. Coles then had a dunk, but Gilliam also had one for Woodrow and East could never get over the hump the rest of the way.
Questionable officiating was in play as well, but the big story was the Eagles free throw shooting. They went 19-of-24 including 10-of-10 from Dewayne Richardson, who broke out big time, and Beckley got the win.
Richardson had 18 points to lead Woodrow. Redfern, a ninth-grader, had 16 and Keynan Cook got 10.
Seams was the player of the game for the Spartans. He finished with 16 points, five steals and four rebounds. He played great defense all night. Coles and Gabbert also had 16 points each.
East was just 4-of-18 from the three-point range.
The Spartans will still get another shot. They will head to George Washington this Wednesday, April 28 to face the Patriots in a Region co-final. The winner will head to the state tournament.
Stats and quotes courtesy of 103.1, The Bear.