The Times West Virginian

March 14, 2014

Polar Bears punch ticket on Horton’s buzzer-beater: PHOTOS

By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — No one would admit that they thought the game was over.

Not Ravenswood coach Mick Price: “Never. I've been coaching for 40 years, son. You never know until that final horn sounds.”

Not Fairmont Senior guard Tavon Horton: “I had confidence in us. I knew we had time to get a shot off.”

Not any one of the fans who stayed around to watch Fairmont Senior cut down the nets for the second time in less than week at the Woody Williams Armory.

But after Ravenswood’s Heath Burgess hit a layup with about five second remaining Thursday night in the regional playoffs, Fairmont Senior’s Darhius Nunn was the only one who would openly admit that he thought that the Polar Bears’ chances to go to Charleston were lost.

“Kind of,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.”

But they weren’t.

In a season filled with buzzer-beaters, nail-biters and last-second heroics, Fairmont Senior came up with the biggest shot when it needed it most Thursday night.

Junior guard Tavon Horton hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave Fairmont Senior a 40-38 victory over Ravenswood and sent the Polar Bears to the state tournament for the third straight season.

“Anyone could have taken the shot,” said Horton, who finished with a team-leading 14 points. “I just happened to be the one open, and I made it.”

His statement is probably true, considering that the Polar Bears have made a habit of coming through in the clutch. For Horton this was the second time this season that he’s hit a game winner. He also knocked down two free throws to beat Bridgeport.

“It was just indicative of our season, really,” said Fairmont Senior coach David Retton. “It was typical of our season.”

The Polar Bears have earned the No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 Poca. Again they will play the underdog, but that’s nothing new.

At the beginning of the season, they were counted out by many after losing all five of their starters from last season’s state runner-up team. But throughout the year they consistently improved and Thursday proved that they are one of the best eight teams in the Class AA.

“(Our players) were told how bad they were going to be. They took it to heart,” said Retton. “They played with a good chip on their shoulder, not a negative chip, but a good chip that has fueled their desire to be successful.”

After the Red Devils took a 6-4 lead to start the game, the Polar Bears (15-9) went on a 14-3 run that stretched from the mid-point in the first quarter all the way until the 2-minute mark in the second quarter. It put Fairmont Senior ahead 18-9.

But over those last two minutes of the half, Ravenswood got a bucket from Jacob Martin, who finished with 19 points, and a 3-pointer from Riley Heatherington to cut the margin to 18-14 heading into halftime.

The Red Devils (14-11) then outscored the Polar Bears 16-11 in the third quarter to pull ahead 30-29 heading into the fourth quarter.

In a wild fourth quarter that featured five lead changes, Nunn (12 points) was at the line with 26.8 seconds remaining and the Polar Bears up 37-36.

With two free throws he could push the lead to three and possible seal it. Instead, the Polar Bears’ most consistent free throw shooter missed the front half of a one-and-one.

Ravenswood’s Burgess sprinted down the court for the layup with five seconds remaining to set the stage for Horton’s last-second heroics.

Afterward Retton said, “In my 17 years of coaching at Fairmont Senior, I haven't been as proud as I am of this group.”

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.