Junior guard helped Flying Eagles catch fire late in the season and author an underdog story all the way to the Class AAAA state tournament.
Six games below .500 following a loss to Greenbrier East on April 6, the Woodrow Wilson (Beckley, W.Va.)
boys basketball team needed a spark. Dwayne Richardson Jr. supplied it.
A junior starter, Richardson accepted the team's sixth man role. The Fighting Eagles (10-11) have won six of seven since and find themselves in this week's West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission state tournament. No. 8 seed Woodrow Wilson plays No. 1 Morgantown (16-1) in Thursday's Class AAAA quarterfinals (5:30 p.m.) at the Charleston Coliseum.
The Eagles earned the berth by beating South Charleston 49-43 in last week's Region 3 co-final. That victory avenged a 52-42 loss to the same team in the regular season. Behind a team-high 18 points from Richardson, Woodrow Wilson beat Greenbrier East 66-57 to earn the chance at state and the program's state-record 81st sectional title.
A team photo on Twitter shows Richardson, wearing jersey No. 12, flashing a wide smile and No. 1 sign with teammates after the regional final.
"He was kind of buying into everything we were saying about Beckley basketball," Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd told The Register-Herald
. "He was realizing that what we were saying was starting to happen. I think he was kind of the difference in the way our season turned around in those two weeks. And I thought he was happy in those two weeks."
Sunday night shortly after 9:15 p.m. in East Beckley, Richardson was shot. He was hit once in the chest.
Police and paramedics responding to reports of the shooting intercepted a group of individuals driving Richardson to the hospital in a private vehicle. EMS transported Richardson the remainder of the route to Raleigh General Hospital. He was flown to Charleston Area Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries. Richardson was 18 years old.
A motive for the incident remains uncertain. Authorities have a person of interest but have not released the name. No arrests have been made but multiple could be coming.
"We are processing evidence that we collected," Lt. Dave Allard (Beckley Police Department) told wvmetronews.com. "We are serving search warrants. We do have some things to go on. We're still trying to determine what led to this incident."
Cash rewards will be paid for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers of WV via their free app or Detective Cpl. Joe Stewart at (304) 256-1708.
"The message is just keep our heads up," senior teammate Ben Gilliam told The Register-Herald. "Let's play for (Dwayne). Let's win this for him. Let's just do it all for him, because we need to show him that he didn't do all that for nothing."
Richardson averaged 8.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals for the Eagles, who have snapped a two-year absence from the state tournament. Woodrow Wilson owns a West Virginia-record 16 state titles. Morgantown is trying to reach its third state final. The Mohigans beat the Eagles 77-55 on April 3.
A moment of silence in Richardson's honor was held Tuesday morning before the start of the first WVSSAC state tournament quarterfinal game. Tears will be shed before Thursday's tip.
"He gave everything the last couple of weeks," Gilliam said. "It just hurts, because he was most excited to go to states.
"We just have to take his excitement and his intensity and his love and go out and play."