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FARMVILLE — Beddingfield High varsity boys basketball head coach Joe Dvozenja didn’t mince words in the aftermath of his team’s 77-66 victory over Riverside Martin in the opening game of the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational at Farmville Central.
A Beddingfield team taking the floor in December would have concocted a way to lose this type of contest in the final minute.
“They’re growing up,” Dvozenja said. “They’re maturing, and they understand that we talk about that teams are going to make runs. We can’t allow the run to affect what we need to do. We’ve just got to take care of the ball a little bit better towards the end. About a month ago, we were on the losing end of these games. It shows the maturity level of them that we’re actually winning these ballgames and finishing them out. Even though it’s ugly, we’re still finishing them out.”
In total control of the proceedings following consecutive layups from sophomore Raekwon Batts, up from the junior varsity for this nonconference holiday contest, Beddingfield owned a 66-49 lead in the fourth quarter. But behind a Riverside flurry and a panicked state from the Bruins, the Knights went on a 15-2 run to close within four points with 38.9 seconds remaining.
However, instead of the margin dipping to one possession, the Bruins ended up hitting key foul shots when they were needed most. With Beddingfield leading 70-66, Riverside became too eager locating a Bruin it wished to foul, and the Knights were whistled for an intentional foul on the inbound with 32.4 seconds to play. Junior Andrew Gattis knocked down the resulting foul shots, and Beddingfield retained possession en route to the final margin.
The 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Bruins improved to 6-8 and attempt to remain unbeaten in conference play Tuesday night at home against Nash Central. Riverside, the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference leader, fell to 8-6 as Beddingfield won for the first time in three tries as an Invitational guest following losses to Ayden-Grifton and Kill Devil Hills First Flight the last two years.
To do so, the Bruins had to overcome a flu bug that has ravaged the roster, including sophomore Mike Best, senior Trevon Brantley and sophomore Lamont Speight. All three played, with Speight bucketing 18 points and running the offense from the point guard spot. Gattis torched the nets for five 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 19, while Mike Best’s penetration and finishing abilities in transition left him with 17. Junior Javan Best, one of the few healthy bodies available for play, was the fourth Beddingfield player in double figures with 11. As such, minutes were strictly rationed.
“We didn’t even practice this weekend,” Dvozenja said. “We told them, stay away from each other.”
The Bruins’ 2-3 zone served them well against a Riverside team that struggled to score from the perimeter in the second half. Riverside’s Ashaun Belcher, who led all scorers with 25 points, got to the rim with regularity in the first half as a back-and-forth affair yielded a 33-33 game at the half. However, Beddingfield moved the top of its 2-3 zone closer to the 3-point line in the second half, cutting off Riverside drives to the basket. Belcher sparked the Knights’ late comeback, but was silenced in the third quarter as the Beddingfield backcourt of Speight and Mike Best took over and gave the Bruins a 50-40 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Riverside, while getting the ball to the high post against the Bruins’ zone, was plagued by misses following touches in the paint, particularly in the third quarter.
“They had one shooter, but we found him in the first quarter,” Mike Best said. “He didn’t get many in the second half. They didn’t have a lot of ball handlers. The only thing they were trying to do was get in the paint.”
Beddingfield finished 15 of 24 from the free-throw line, while Riverside was 14 for 20.
“We weren’t very good today, but you can’t take anything away from them and what they did,” Riverside head coach Bobby Williams said of Beddingfield. “They contributed a lot to that. We were just extremely flat. A big, huge conference win on Friday night, and today was just one of those days. All we do is try to attack. We’ve got a bunch of athletes, not necessarily basketball guys, who try to attack and want to get to the rim and today was just one of those days they weren’t going.”
Yet the shots went enough for Beddingfield, which survived a test that was as much mental as it was physical.
“We’ve come a long way,” Mike Best assured.
Brantley 4, M. Best 17, Speight 18, J. Best 11, Gattis 19, Taylor, Grant 2, Batts 6.
Exum 6, Griffin 4, Thomas 5, Belcher 25, Scott, Brown, Beach 7, Leavelle 5, Burns 14.
Score by quarters:
Beddingfield 16 17 17 27 — 77
Riverside 13 20 7 26 — 66