By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
PLEASANT VALLEY —
When the East Fairmont boys’ basketball team breaks its huddle, the players break on “Bee strong.”
In a 69-55 loss to No. 1 Robert C. Byrd Friday night at East Fairmont High School, strength ended up being the key for the Flying Eagles.
“When someone is as good and as solid and as strong as Byrd is, if something’s working you better stay with it,” East Fairmont coach Tyrone Asterino said after the loss. “I felt we got away a little bit. We shot some jumpers in the second quarter that could’ve been dribble penetrations and pick up fouls. They’re physically strong, and they get out and run. They got some transition points on us.”
After a tight first quarter that saw the Flying Eagles only up by three points, East Fairmont (3-5, 1-4 Big 10) fell victim to a 13-2 run by RCB to fall behind, 30-16.
RCB (9-0, 7-0 Big 10) scored points off every East Fairmont turnover in the second quarter to take a 38-23 halftime lead. In all, the Eagles scored 21 points off 12 East Fairmont turnovers in the game.
“I think East was ready to play,” Byrd coach Bill Bennett said. “I think we got into a rhythm there in the second quarter and turned the defense up a little bit. Defense always affects our offense. That stretch there in the second quarter was the difference in the game.”
Despite the Bees’ efforts in the second half, Byrd was able to maintain its lead, never letting East Fairmont come any closer than seven points at any time during the stretch.
“I think our kids played extremely hard. I’m not faulting effort,” Asterino said of the game. “I think there were some things transition wise and shot selection, but I’m looking forward to playing them again.”
East Fairmont was led by senior guard Ronnie Mills with 18 points, while Myles Johnson barely missed a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds. The Bees also got double-digit efforts from Jake Delaney (10 points) and Brennon Vincent (12 points).
“I knew it was going to take a little bit of time to knock the rust off,” Asterino said of Mills, who missed last season due to surgery. “His shot is still coming around. We’ve got to get more production inside still.”
East Fairmont’s big men scored a combined 11 points while Byrd’s big man, Justin Noble, scored 12 by himself to go with six rebounds. He was complemented by Devonti Birch’s 18 points, eight rebounds and five rebounds.
“With those two, there’s the strength factor and trying to keep them off the glass if you can,” Asterino said of Byrd’s two leading scorers. “That kind of stuff is critical against them. They’re two good athletes. You have to limit them to one shot and get back down the court. In transition, it’s hard to outrun Birch.”
East Fairmont will now turn its attention to Philip Barbour on Wednesday as the Bees travel to play the Colts at 7:30 p.m.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.