By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
When two top-five teams get together on the court, intensity runs high.
That was the case when Fairmont Senior (3-1, 2-0) hosted North Marion (2-1, 0-1) Thursday night.
No. 3 Fairmont Senior used a fast tempo, had two players score over 20 points and toppled North Marion, 75-49.
“Last year’s sectional championship, we’ve got to remember how they celebrated. They celebrated on our court,” Fairmont Senior head coach Corey Hines said, referring to the Huskies’ victory over his team in last year’s sectional final. “I told the young ladies, that’s something that you really don’t want to experience again.”
One of Hines’ players, though, wasn’t on the court last season when Fairmont Senior fell to the Huskies.
Erica Bowles, who is having a tremendous start to her high school basketball career, experienced her first encounter with the rivalry Thursday night.
She excelled greatly.
“She’s a difference maker, man,” Hines said of Bowles. “She got a lot of key steals, kept plays alive, hit a couple threes. And she’s a freshman. Impressive.”
The 5-foot-6 freshman guard scored 20 points, 13 of which came in the second half, grabbed five rebounds and tallied four steals en route to a daunting win.
“It means a lot to me to get the season going as a team,” Bowles said of her, and her team’s, strong start to the season. “We just wanted to keep our momentum up and keep going and not stop. We just wanted to win real bad.”
The momentum Bowles mentioned came in the second half after it seemed that North Marion was running away with things.
The Huskies, down, 31-24, at the half, began the third quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 36-35 lead.
The Polar Bears would answer, though, with a 12-4 run of their own and never looked back.
“We quit playing defense. We quit rebounding, and we didn’t do what we needed to do against their press,” North Marion coach Mike Parrish said of the second-half burst of Fairmont Senior. “We talked about rebounding and having your head on a swivel, and we didn’t do that.”
The run for Fairmont Senior was led by Bowles and junior Kaden Whaley, who led all scorers with 27.
“She keeps playing hard. I told her to keep going at ’em,” Hines said of his 5-foot-11 forward. “Fortunately, their bigs got in a little foul trouble, and things opened up.”
Things opened up indeed for Whaley as 21 of her 27 points came in the second half.
“We knew that we were up at halftime but we couldn’t take it as, ‘Oh, we’re winning. We can slack now,’” Bowles said. “We have to take it in stride and keep going.”
The Huskies, though, were resilient, fighting through foul trouble for most of the second half.
The Huskies got a spark from junior Cassady Rodriguez off the bench and kept things alive with key free throws and deep shots.
“I just tell them, we’ve got to get better,” Parrish said after the game. “We played OK at times, but we played bad, too. When you play against good teams, that’s the result when you just show up and go through the motions.”
Rodriguez led the Huskies with 11 points, while Christa Tobin chipped in nine.
Emily Stoller also reached double digits for the Polar Bears with 12 points.
The Huskies will look to weather the storm in the early part of the season and will take on Weir Saturday at home at 2 p.m.
The Polar Bears, Hines said, are treating their season as a game-by-game basis all leading to the state tournament.
“You can’t quit. We’re taking one game at a time,” said Hines. “You can go lose 22 games then go on a run and still win a championship. That’s the great thing about high school basketball.”
Fairmont Senior’s girls are back in action Dec. 17 when they travel to play Liberty (Harrison) at 7:30 p.m.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.