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February 26, 2014

County teams revved up for post-season

FAIRMONT — Looking at the Region I, Section I tournament for the Marion County teams is much like taking a drive on the interstate.

Fairmont Senior is the sports car, outscoring its opponents by an even 30.0 points for the 2013-14 season while racking up 17 straight wins.

Similar to a Lamborghini, the Lady Polar Bears use flash and speed to win games. Whether it be a no-look, behind-the-back pass from point guard Emily Stoller, a quick putback off the offensive glass by Kaden Whaley or a steal and transition layup by Ty Horton, if you blink you just may miss a point when watching the top-ranked team in the state.

After they dropped a three-point contest to Class AAA Morgantown to start their season, Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines said the players and coaches engrained a “win or go home” mindset, infused with some confidence, into their game.

“Our mindset is that we’re confident but not overly confident,” Hines said of his ball club. “We want to go in and know that if we’re playing our game, then we’re going to be tough to beat.”

And so far that has rung true.

What Morgantown did in that season opener was force the Lady Polar Bears to get away from their game and play to their opponent’s strength. Since, Fairmont Senior (17-1) hasn’t lost a game and has won every contest but two by double-digits, scoring more than 60 points in each game.

“We like to make teams use the whole 94 feet. With the young ladies that I have this year, that style fits us,” Hines said of the fast-paced style of play. “When we’re able to run, we run.”

And over the course of the season, that confidence has spread into other members of the team, Kelsey Morrone and Horton included.

At the beginning of the season, it would be rare to see Morrone knock down outside jumpers or Horton drive the lane for an and-1 opportunity. Now, as the season heads into the postseason, those are normalcies.

“Kelsey’s been a big plus lately. (She’s) gotten in better shape and started to contribute,” Hines said. “Ty and Jasmine Johnson are two key components defensively. If you’re able to step in those passing lanes and get a layup, that’s important.

“A lot of people think that if you stop one of our players that you’ll win. But we’re not that kind of team.”

Fairmont Senior will look to prove its coach right tonight as they host Oak Glen at 7 p.m.

Keeping it moving along this drive, you’ll see North Marion, the 18-wheeler.

The Lady Huskies posted an 18-2 record, winning 14-straight to end their season. Along the way they proved that, just as an 18-wheeler on the road, teams can try to out-run them but if that try to take them head on, North Marion will roll them over.

“We’ve thrown a lot of wins together,” North coach Mike Parrish said of the comparison. “One thing we talked about is getting off to good starts. We’ve gotten off to some good starts but we need to put together four quarters.”

Much like an 18-wheeler, it takes a seasoned veteran to maneuver such a vehicle. Parrish, himself, fits that category, winning multiple state titles as both a boys’ and girls’ coach. But two of his seniors also boast championship rings and will be instrumental to any run the team makes this season.

“Anna (Marie Moscufo) and Noca (Singleton) were freshmen during the last title we won so they know what it takes,” Parrish said. “They didn’t have big roles, but it’s always good to have kids who know what it’s like.”

Moscufo and Singleton, coupled with sophomore guard Megan Haller, will look to lead the Huskies to another title, but first they will need to get through East Fairmont tonight.

Looming past the East Fairmont game, should North win, will likely be Fairmont Senior. But Parrish knows better than to look past a stingy East Fairmont squad.

“We never look ahead past any opponents. If we’re fortunate enough to win that game then we’ll look ahead to whoever is in front of us,” Parrish said. “Coach (James) Beckman has done a good job with them. It takes time to get their system in. He’s got a lot of young kids playing. We’re expecting a tough game out of them.”

East Fairmont is much like a Jeep. The Lady Bees have been thrown off-road a few times and dragged through the mud, but they always come back for more.

Beckman, a first-year head coach, has led his squad to a 10-11 season after the team won just seven games a year prior. He knows this team has been battling all season, but also knows their capabilities.

“We take it one day at a time, one possession at a time and one game at a time,” he said. “Our motto is that we’re going to get better with each possession and I think that’s what we’re doing.”

With some of its key players sidelined with injuries, East Fairmont will turn to its younger players to carry the load. Led by sophomore point guard Bailey Frederick, his young team has Beckman’s full confidence.

“You’re going to live and die with your point guard. She knows where she stands with this team. She’s the heart and soul of this team. When she struggles, we struggle. When she triumphs, we all triumph with this team,” Beckman said. “We’re without four top girls in our program and these freshman are stepping up and giving us valuable minutes. That speaks volumes to this program.”

Getting past North Marion will be no easy task, but, just as a Jeep is designed to do, the Lady Bees will drop it into four-wheel drive and face yet another daunting contest tonight at 7 p.m. at North Marion High School.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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