The Basketball Tournament wanted West Virginia’s biggest in-state rivalry in this year’s TBT, and it surely didn’t disappoint.
Best Virginia squared off against Herd That in Charleston on Tuesday at TBT’s West Virginia Regional, marking the first meeting between the two alumni teams at the event. Herd That livened up the game during the Elam Ending, but Best Virginia took the win 89-79 in front of the fifth-largest crowd in TBT history.
“I told you, the Herd, they don’t want it. It’s not a rivalry to us,” said Best Virginia forward John Flowers, referring to some pre-game barbs he sent towards his opponent. “In all seriousness, they’ve got a good team. Jon Elmore is a good player, I love Ot Elmore, they’re like brothers to me.”
The WVU alumni squad was lights-out from three-point range, shooting 11-of-23 from deep to keep its lead in double-digits for most of the final three quarters. John Flowers led the game with five three-pointers and was one of three former Mountaineers to lead the team with 17 points.
Herd That kept the game tight for the first two quarters, even knotting it up at the end of the first to make Best Virginia’s night difficult. However, it got easier at the start of the second quarter when Best Virginia went on a 19-2 run to take control of the game fo the first time.
The Marshall Alumni didn’t quit as Derek Cooke Jr., an alumnus of Wyoming, led the green team on a 15-3 run to get the deficit within single digits. Jon Elmore completed the run with a fadeaway mid-range jumper at the buzzer to cut it to just seven points.
Best Virginia got the lead back to double digits in the third quarter and maintained control of the contest until the Elam Ending target score was set in the fourth quarter. Again, though, Herd That didn’t quit and stormed back to threaten Best Virginia’s victory and get within single digits.
Jamel Morris ended that threat when he dribbled through the Herd That defense and pulled up for the dagger jump shot, upping his scoring total to 15 points.
James Kelly led the game with 24 points and nine rebounds for Herd That, while Jon Elmore and Cameron Young each added 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Kevin Jones and Jermaine Haley both scored 17 points for Best Virginia. Haley played just 20 minutes for the victors but impressed in the box score as he led the team with six boards and four assists.
“These guys put a lot of trust in me, and they make me kind of do what they know I can do,” Haley said. “So [I’m] just continuing to play hard, and when you play hard, the game gives back to you. It’s all on [my teammates] honestly for pushing me and just letting me be me.”
Best Virginia’s victory sets up a Sweet 16 matchup with Bucketneers, an ETSU alumni team that defeated War Ready on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
“It was a good game, and it was great for West Virginia, and it’s great that one team is representing West Virginia that made it out,” Flowers said. “As usual, it was WVU.”