APPALACHIA — Appalachia’s girls basketball program has officially returned from the wilderness.
The Lady Bulldogs beat Rye Cove 37-34 in a defensive scratch-and- clawfest Saturday night at Appalachia High School, clinching the program’s first Coal Classic girls championship.
In the boys’ finals, tournament MVP Andrew Adkins scored a tournament-record 49 points as Coeburn upended Appalachia 73-61 for the Coal Classic championship — another program first.
“I coached several years at J.I. Burton and they asked me to come back here and coach and it was a hard decision to make. But I wanted to get us back where we were before,” said third-year coach Angela Honeycutt, who has the Lady Bulldogs off to an 8-1 start after going winless her first year and picking up one win last season.
“These kids have all worked hard. It isn’t just one. They’ve all worked hard and I’m just happy for the kids. This is a whole lot better than the first year.”
The championship marked the Appalachia girls’ first basketball trophy of any kind since the Roshana Jackson era. Jackson, a state championship veteran who went on to a college career at Virginia Tech, played at Appalachia when Group A girls basketball was still played in the fall.
Though the Lady Bulldogs don’t have a basketball player of Jackson’s caliber, 5-foot-10 senior forward Lauren Howard most definitely made her presence felt Saturday night.
Howard scored a team-high 15 points and was an absolute beast on the boards, hauling in 16 rebounds — 10 on the defensive end. She also collected three steals and deflected or otherwise disrupted twice again as many passes on the defensive end. She was named MVP.
“She’s played hard for us ever since I’ve been here. She tells me every day she’s not a basketball player but I tell her every day she has to be for us, because we don’t have too much size. She works at it hard,” Honeycutt said. “If she’d ever learn how to shoot under the goal, she’d really be something. We probably don’t shoot better than 30 percent as a team and most of our shots are under the goal. If we ever learn to shoot, we’re going to be a fun team to watch.”
Brittany Craft added 11 points for the Lady Bulldogs, also grabbing seven rebounds and collecting five steals.
The Lady Eagles (5-4) got 12 points from Shelli McDavid. Christi Hood and Jasmine Carter scored nine points apiece. Shooter Shasta Edwards played sparingly, but the Lady Bulldogs did a good job preventing her from getting open looks outside the arc.
“Rye Cove is well-coached and has some great shooters. I’m always worried about the 3s ... it doesn’t matter what the score is. They love to shoot the 3s. I told mine to sag off a little bit and give a little ground and they came through. They played pretty good defense tonight,” Honeycutt said.
“That’s exactly what I was expecting, for it to be physical like that,” said Rye Cove coach Jamie Carter. “They hit free throws down the stretch and we didn’t hit a thing. We didn’t box out well, turned the ball over 18 times. The Howard girl hurt us all night and they played hard. They outhustled us to every loose ball on the floor.”
In the boys’ finals, Adkins hit eight trifectas en route to the best single-game scoring effort in the Coal Classic since Trazel Silvers scored 45 against Lee High in 1989. Andrew Pate hit two treys on his way to eight for the Blue Knights (6-2), while Robbie Barker knocked down another outside the arc.
“(Andrew Adkins) had a streak of 23 free throws before he missed that one tonight,” said Coeburn coach Jeff Adkins. “I thought he played well. I thought our team played well. We played a good defensive game. I think our kids are understanding what to do now on that crazy stuff we run out there. As long as they understand, that’s fine with me.”
Devin Brickey scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs (6-2), hitting four 3-pointers along the way, while Bud Allen nailed three and finished with 17 points.
“Andrew Adkins shot the lights out,” said Appalachia coach Pat Jervis. “That’s about as good as it gets. He didn’t miss very many. For us it’s a hard thing to take here on our court. But like I told our kids, it’s early in the year and we’re looking to win a Lonesome Pine District championship and move on.”
In boys tournament consolation action, Chris Puckett scored 17 points as Jenkins clipped Powell Valley 56-55. Garrett Stewart added 15 for the Cavaliers (6-8) while Stephen Stephens chipped in nine.
Terrell Turner scored 16 for the Vikings (4-4), who might have called a timeout to set up a final play but misjudged the time remaining in part due to a clock malfunction. Jordan Martin added 15 points while John Michael Allen scored 11.
In earlier games, Hagen Hensley scored 23 points to lead Thomas Walker in a 62-58 win over Rye Cove. Cody Williams and Robbie Giles scored 11 points apiece for the Pioneers (6-2). Jeremy Smith scored 21 points to lead the Eagles (1-7) while Blake Wyatt put up 20.
Otto Fletcher, Council’s 6-foot-7 center, scored 31 points as the Cobras outgunned Mountain Empire Baptist 72-42. Shannon Breeding added 10 for Council. Mark Wynegar paced the Mountaineers (5-6), firing up 29 points.