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FARMVILLE — The Beddingfield High varsity boys basketball team simply had no substantive answer for a relentless band of shooters from Kill Devil Hills First Flight on Monday afternoon.
Taking more than a page from the style of play made famous by former Virginia Military Institute and current Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom, the Nighthawks relentlessly fired away from 3-point range during the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational at Farmville Central.
The result was an inflated number of possessions for both teams. And it was a style of play that the Bruins were ill-equipped to mirror. As such, the Bruins ultimately slipped into the back-and-forth emotional flow of the game from behind the 3-point line. When the final buzzer sounded, First Flight, which led the nation in 3-point shots made and attempted last season, had knocked down 19 3-pointers in a 91-74 victory.
Beddingfield of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, which has lost three in a row and five of its last six, fell to 5-8. First Flight, visitors from the 2-A Northeastern Coastal Conference, improved to 9-5.
“They shot the ball better than anybody I’ve seen all year,” Beddingfield head coach Joe Dvozenja said. “They were even driving in and kicking it out to the three. We were bigger than they were. They just got a lot of offensive rebounds because when you shoot a three, it’s not a rebound around the rim, it’s a deep rebound. And really, they outhustled us. They got to all the loose balls. Our guys have to do a better job of getting on the floor and finding that thing in their heart that they really want to be a dog out there and really work hard.”
The up-and-down style of play left Beddingfield with nine treys of its own. Tobias Cooper, a senior, had six 3-pointers on his way to 24 points. His deep 3-point shot just before the end of the first quarter left Beddingfield up 22-18 as the outside shooting was complemented by drives to the rim and jumpers inside the arc.
Just before the end of the first half, First Flight struck quickly. Cooper brought Beddingfield within a point with his fourth trey of the first half, but the Nighthawks’ Jordan High knocked down a pair of 3-point shots to give First Flight a 46-39 lead at the half.
All five First Flight starters displayed the ability to pull up from beyond the arc, drive to the basket, and grab any number of long offensive rebounds that came off misses from 3-point range.
High had 27 points on five 3-pointers, while Dylan Blake tallied 24 on four treys. Grayson Bell, with 18 points, also added four long-range shots.
“We worked our program into this style about five years ago,” First Flight head coach Chad Williams said. “We went 180 degrees from where we were to where we’re playing now. As a coach, you’ve got to give them a lot of freedom. But these kids are smart and they love playing the game. They love playing together, and it makes it easy.”
First Flight quickly moved to assume a 53-42 lead early in the third quarter. Beddingfield, with the number of extra possessions sure to come its way, went on an 8-0 spurt. A second-chance shot by freshman Lamont Speight, a runner from junior Jalen Artis and layups by freshman Mike Best and Artis brought the Bruins back to within one possession at 53-50. Best had 17 points off the bench for the Bruins.
Beddingfield was finally getting the ball inside with its superior height and length. Yet a missed 3-pointer from Beddingfield led to another High trey, boosting the Nighthawks back out to a six-point lead. Beddingfield would only get the lead down to three once more in the third quarter. The 17-point margin of victory was First Flight’s largest.
Williams said he felt more at ease as Beddingfield settled into the helter-skelter style embraced by the Nighthawks. Senior Octavius Lacey, a potential 6-4 difference maker for the Bruins, was limited to just six points.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime,” he said. “We thought they started shooting a little more and stopped attacking the basket as much as I thought they were going to. Because that’s how we play, I felt really good when that happened, because teams aren’t used to shooting that many 3s.”
The deluge slowed in the fourth as First Flight went into a motion offense to take time off the clock. But all that did was set up easy driving lanes to the basket. As Beddingfield trailed 78-68 with 3:30 to play and showed little ability to get a turnover, Dvozenja began to order fouls to put First Flight on the line. The Nighthawks sank 11 free throws down the stretch to salt away the win.
“We’ve got to do a better job of owning up what we do well as a person on our team, and embrace what you do well,” Dvozenja said. “We tried to go inside, and they kept chucking it. It kept going in. I wouldn’t say chucking it, because that’s disrespectful. But they were shooting the lights out tonight.”
Despite the 19 makes from 3-point range, that’s not even close to a Nighthawks record. First Flight made 28 threes in a 120-107 loss to Bertie last season — in regulation.
“We try to stay composed,” Cooper said. “But what really killed us was the offensive rebounds. Then they kick it back out and hit a 3. That’s basically what their gameplan was — shoot 3s. Run and shoot.”
FIRST FLIGHT (91)
Blake 24, Nobles 6, Witt 3, Bell 18, Davidson 11, High 27, Nicholas, Hargis, Gibson, Williams 2.
Cooper 24, Lacey 6, Langston 2, Wooten 2, Artis 6, Speight 9, Best 17, Blackston 3, Witherspoon 2, Wilder 3.
Score by quarters: