By Bill Nestor
This summer brings the 10th anniversary of TBT. The Basketball Tournament is a 64 team single elimination tournament that awards the winning team one million dollars. That is a nice payday for the last team standing in the “loser leaves town” tourney.
Best Virginia is a team comprised mostly of former West Virginia University players and players who played hoops in the Mountain State. This is their fourth year competing in this event, and they were one of the favorites entering play this past Tuesday. They had a big advantage playing in front of friendly fans, as Wheeling was selected as one of eight first round sites.
On Tuesday, Best Virginia pulled out a hard fought win over the Dubois Dream on a last second three pointer from Erik Stevenson. The 70-68 victory helped the home team avoid a near-upset while keeping their hopes for the big jackpot alive. Kevin Jones poured in a team high 22 points, hauled down 12 rebounds, blocked four shots, and handed out three assists. Stevenson finished with 16 points, pulled in 11 rebounds, and dished out three assists. Teyvon Myera chipped in with nine points, seven assists, and three caroms.
Best Virginia held the advantage in several major categories, including total rebounding, second chance points, bench points, points in the paint, and, most importantly, assists. That showed that the team chemistry was solid and the players were willing to share the ball. Everything was rounding into form from the top seed in the region. Up next was a revenge game two days later, as “Herd That” was waiting in the wings. The Marshall based squad had knocked off the “Zoo Crew (a Pitt Panther based group) 86-71 in the opening round.
A year ago, “Herd That” bounced “Best Virginia” from the tournament. A crowd of 2,000 fans invaded the Wesbanco Arena to view the much anticipated rematch. Best Virginia was poised to deal a defeat to its opponent, holding an eight point lead with 2:18 left in the third period of play.
“Herd That” answered teh bell and responded with a 33-12 run to pull out the 74-61 come-from-behind victory. Cold shooting down the stretch hurt Best Virginia as they would shoot just 17 percent from three point land and 30 percent from the field. Herd That also held the advantage in rebounding (48-51) points in the paint (40-18) points off of turnovers (22-14) and fast break points (27-9)
Jones added a second consecutive double-double with a game high in points (18) and rebounds (13.) Jamel Morris was the only other Best Virginia player to find double digit scoring. Morris added 13 points, five rebounds, and a pair of assists. Stevenson chipped in with nine points and Myers added eight in the loss.
Herd That showed excellent scoring balance with five players in double digits. Jon Elmor and James Kelly each pumped in 16 points to lead the charge. Former Notre Dame standout Jarrod West played just over four minutes for the Marshall based team in his return to his home state.
Former Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins wa sin attendance for both Bets Virginia games. It was his first public appearance since stepping down after 16 seasons at his alma mater. WVU fans were treated to a trip down memory lane and there is nothing like bonus basketball in the summer!