By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
They say defense wins championships.
If that’s the case, Fairmont Senior may be well on its way when it comes time for the state tournament.
But for now, the Lady Polar Bears (5-1, 3-0 Big 10) focused their stingy defense on Robert C. Byrd (3-2, 2-2 Big 10).
No. 3 Fairmont Senior, led by junior guard Emily Stoller, bullied the Eagles en route to a 77-33 victory Thursday night at the Marion County Armory.
The Eagles were coming off a win over No. 4 Bridgeport, but that wasn’t what Fairmont Senior head coach Corey Hines and his girls were thinking about.
“Each game was different and the way I personally felt was that they have a great coach and coaching staff, but they beat us twice last year,” Hines said. “So the only thing I could focus on was that they beat us twice.”
Fairmont Senior forced a plethora of turnovers and made plenty of buckets to keep the Eagles confused for most of the first half.
Hines said the girls know they need to bring it when they’re at home, and that’s what they did.
After taking a 10-point lead into the second quarter, the Polar Bears went on to finish the half with a 19-0 run, followed by a 19-1 run to open the second half.
“I tell the girls, we’ve got to protect our home court because those (other schools) are tough places to play,” he said.
Defense has always been something that he has wanted to focus on, the coach said.
“You’ve got to set the tone defensively if you want to win these games,” Hines said. “That’s the one thing that significantly changes the game. Sometimes you can be cold shooting, but defensively you’ve got to stay hot.”
Stoller and teammate Kaden Whaley went to work, and it was business as usual for the tandem as Stoller drilled home 25 points to go along with Whaley’s 19.
Freshman guard Erica Bowles also added 12 points, speaking to the depth of this Fairmont Senior lineup.
“That’s the sign of the kids working hard,” Hines said of the depth. “I’m very proud of them. Erica Bowles came in and changed the tempo. Jasmine Johnson, playing hurt. Tyaina Horton, one of our toughest players. And Emily and Kaden, they’re playing great ball. And you’ve got another freshman in Abby (Stoller).”
While it was a true team effort in the win over the upset-minded Eagles, Hines said there’s still room for improvement and that every game is different.
“While I kind of like some of the stuff we’re doing, we still have to get better,” he said. “I don’t feel we played our best basketball.”
When your team is coming off a 44-point victory and your coach doesn’t feel you’ve played your best basketball, where do go from there?
You get focused, Hines said.
“I don’t want to play (our best basketball) right now,” he said. “I want to play it in March.”
With a long road ahead, Hines feels the girls are well on their way, but they’re still taking a one-game-at-a-time approach.
That next game is a week and a day away when his Fairmont Senior team travels for its Holiday Classic tournament.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.