By Mark Robinson
Woodrow Wilson’s boys basketball team came to Fairlea Friday, Jan. 20, and there were an estimated 2,000 spectators on hand to watch the contest, which Woodrow won, 58-49.
The game was closer than that, but East had to foul at the end, and Woodrow extended its lead by making the free throws.
Expecting a big crowd, the curtain at the south end of the floor had been pulled back, and bleachers set up on the stage. Before the game, an announcement over the loudspeakers asked fans to squeeze in closer to each other on the bleachers, because the gym was already full, and more people were still coming in the doors. By the time the game started, everyone was packed shoulder to shoulder, and people were standing in the corners, filling up all available space. Plenty of Woodrow’s fans were on hand, making the quick drive from Beckley.
The game was tied at 11, and at 15, and at the half the score was 26-25, East. In the third quarter Woodrow built a 42-33 lead, but East came back to make it 42-42 with six and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was 46-44, Woodrow, with 2:54 remaining. At that point Woodrow’s no. 22, Isaiah Francis, began to hit his free throws, putting Woodrow up 49-44, when Seth Brown hit a running jumper in the lane to pull East within three. But that was as close as it got, as Francis continued to hit free throws, and Woodrow won by nine.
The story of the game was the total inability of East’s shooters to hit three-point shots. For the game they went three of 29, but two of those were fluke shots, one a 70-foot heave just before the halftime buzzer by Nate Patton, the other a long shot from the right side that was not a likely goal. “Really we were one of 29 from long range,” said coach Jim Justice after the game. For a team with a number of hot outside shooters, it was the worst night possible, and showed just how hard they played in other aspects of the game to keep it close.
Seth Brown led East’s scorers with 28; Jasiah Rawls pulled down 14 rebounds. For Woodrow, Isaiah Francis had 17 points, and Josiah Walton had 10 rebounds. Woodrow’s record was 5-3 coming into this game.
Woodrow coach Ron Kidd said after the game, “I thought we controlled the glass better in the second half, and I thought our defensive pressure picked up. They missed a lot of shots. I know they don’t miss that many shots, so we were pretty lucky tonight that they missed those shots, because they had wide open looks. Jim does a good job with them. They’ve got a good team this year.”
Justice, after the game, said, “I honestly thought we were the better team. They had their new kid. He hit five or six threes. That was big. To be perfectly honest, we have six kids on our team who can really shoot the basketball. All of them have not had a lot of experience. And when you haven’t had enough experience, you get in that situation and you shoot the ball poorly. We shot two for 14 on threes in the first half, and one for 15 in the second half. We can really shoot the basketball. If you remember, we scored 66 points in a half at Richwood. Against a halfway decent team. If you come watch us in practice every day, we run a five-ball drill, and we’ll make 90 shots. But when you throw up a two for 14 and a one for 15, you can’t beat anybody.”
East and Woodrow will have a rematch in Beckley Saturday evening, Jan. 28.