BLUEFIELD — The combination of Anthony Eades and Lykel Collier has led the Bluefield Beavers to back-to-back state championships, three appearances in the final game, and a 75-7 mark in the last three seasons.
Trying to separate one from the other can be difficult. No one knows that better than Bluefield head coach Buster Large.
“Both of them are very deserving of everything they get,” Large said. “They are both outstanding young men, and great basketball players. They are both leaders in the school and great student-athletes ...
“I think anything Lykel or Anthony get in the postseason is very deserving for each of them because they have worked so hard in the offseason in trying to better their games.”
Both Eades and Collier have been selected to the Class AA all-state first team for a second straight year, as picked by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Eades, who had 82 points as the Beavers defeated three teams by a combined 70 points to win a second straight state title, has been chosen as the captain of the first team, a rare individual goal he had set years ago.
“It feels great,” said Eades, Bluefield’s only three-time first all-state selection. “I have worked very hard for this and for me to get this means a lot.”
He led the Beavers to a 25-2 record, averaging 19.9 points a game, along with 3.3 rebounds, and was nearly automatic at the free throw line, making 86.4 percent of his attempts. He also made 50 percent of his field goal attempts, including 41 percent from 3-point range.
Eades was at his best in the biggest moments. Over the last three state tournaments, Eades was the leading scorer among all three classes, scoring 22.9 points a contest, including 82 in three wins last weekend.
“I love being under pressure. Big time players, they step up during the big games like that,” said Eades, who finished his career with a school record 1,808 points. “To be a great player like that, you have got to produce in games like that. I had to dig down deep and just fight and do whatever it takes for my team to win.”
He did it well. Eades leads an eight-player first team, seven of whom played in the state tournament last weekend in Charleston.
Eades is joined on the first team by Collier, the Beavers’ lightning-quick point guard, who had been deemed ineligible by the WVSSAC prior to the season. That ruling was later overturned and he wound up providing 12.5 points and 8.0 assists for the Beavers, many of which went to Eades.
“We have grown a lot over the years,” said Collier, who also had a monster state tournament, contributing 40 points, 24 assists and 19 steals, including a near triple-double in a dominating 64-39 state title game win over Robert C. Byrd. “I know where he likes the ball and I know where he’s going to be on the court. He expects me to get him the ball when he’s open. He makes my job easier when he’s hitting shots.”
Eades was at his best in the big moments, and none was bigger than the final three games of the last three seasons in Charleston.
“We accomplished something that not a lot of people get to do,” said Eades, whose Beavers became the second team in school history to win back-to-back state titles. “Three state championship game appearances and back-to-back titles. That is a big thing. When teams do that, that just leaves a great legacy for Bluefield High School.
“The ’95 and ’96 teams were pretty good too. Both of those teams just left great legacies,”
Joining Eades and Collier on the first team is a duo from state runner-up Robert C. Byrd, including Devonti Birch, who led Robert C. Byrd to a 24-1 record with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals a game. He also led the Eagles with 14 points in the loss to Bluefield.
Junior classmate Justin Noble, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds against Bluefield, also made first team, contributing 13 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Eagles.
Senior Corey Bowles makes his second straight appearance on the Class AA first team. The school’s all-time leading scorer, Bowles led Westside to 20-7 record, falling in overtime to Robert C. Byrd in the state semifinals.
Bowles, who led Westside to a win over Bluefield on its way to winning the Big Atlantic Classic title, led the Renegades with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists a game.
Poca junior Noah Frampton is also a first-teamer, leading the Dots to a 25-2 mark, dedicating the season to his father who succumbed to cancer in December. He contributed 15.4 points a game, and led the Dots with 14 points in the state semifinal loss to Bluefield.
John Wilfong of Bridgeport was the seventh of the eight-member first team to participate in the state tournament. The 6-foot-2 junior had the highest scoring average of any of them at 21.3 points a game.
Wilfong led the Indians to an 18-8 record, falling to Westside in the state quarterfinals.
The eighth member of the first team comes from what is arguably the toughest Class AA region in West Virginia.
Senior Austin Canada contributed 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game for Wyoming East, which finished the season with a 17-6 record, including a loss to Bluefield in the Region 3 co-finals.
Eight second team members were also chosen, led by captain Josh Butcher of Chapmanville. He is joined by PikeView’s Zach Meadows, Westside’s Justin Cogar, Poca’s Luke Frampton, Wyoming East’s Christian Hedinger, Ravenswood’s Jack Martin, Jacob Neal of Roane County and Jared Tharp from Nicholas County.
Third team honorees include captain Will Fox of Westside. He is joined by Bluefield’s Michael Yost, Wyoming East’s Taron Ayers, Fairmont Senior’s Tavon Horton, Berkeley Springs’ Michael Kearney, Eric May of Scott, and the Robert C. Byrd duo of Luke Dyer and Kevin Steele.