The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 10, 2013

Future bright for FSHS, North girls

FAIRMONT — There is no doubt Marion County’s girls can play basketball with the best West Virginia has to offer.

If that was ever in question, it was put to rest around this time four years ago when Mariah Byard’s jumper dropped through the Charleston Civic Center net to kick-start a run of back-to-back-to-back state titles at North Marion.

Now, it’s appears all set to begin again ... sort of.

While the area didn’t bring home a state championship trophy — unless you count fellow league foe Bridgeport, which wrapped up its first girls’ crown Saturday with a 44-27 pasting of Westside — it has to feel excited about what could happen down the road.

Fairmont Senior is losing two seniors and returns two standout forwards in Emily Stoller and Kaden Whaley, two energy-packed backcourt sparkplugs in Jasmine Johnson and Ty Horton, and several other promising underclassmen.

And the best part — or maybe the scariest if you’re an opposing Big 10 coach — is the fact they’re all sophomores or younger.

No wonder coach Corey Hines called youth the program’s biggest asset after a blowout win over Clay County in Thursday’s first-round tourney game.

Another reason for optimism is watching how the Polar Bears play basketball.

With defense, with rebounding and with an all-out, full-court, gas-pedal-slammed-down-to-the-floor game that leaves most teams catching their breath by the second half. It’s a fast, fun style and one that should cause matchup problems for opposing teams for years to come.

And that certainly could have been the case in Friday night’s 51-41 semifinal loss to Westside as well. However, while FSHS got the fast pace it wanted, it couldn’t find the basket and wound up shooting 28 percent from the floor.

Even during Thursday’s miscue-filled opener in which the two teams committed 59 turnovers, smashing the Class AA state tournament record of 49, the Polar Bears were still playing their game.

As for the North girls, they played their game — shooting 3-pointers — until the end but couldn’t cash in during a first-round state loss to Nicholas County on Thursday morning.

All told, the Huskies made just 1 of 16 threes. Had two or three dropped in, they very well could have advanced to play Bridgeport, a team which beat them by just five in January.

But you have to like North’s shot for a return trip to Charleston going forward. The Huskies lose two key seniors in guards Audia Bartlett and Chelsea Swiger, but return everyone else to team that closed its season by winning 13 of its final 14 games.

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