The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

March 7, 2014

Fairmont Senior bullies Ritchie County to claim regional title: PHOTOS

FAIRMONT — While remnants of a winter storm remained outside of the Woody Williams Armory, No. 1 Fairmont Senior was on fire inside, beating Ritchie County, 69-31, for the Region I title.

It was business as usual for Fairmont Senior, which will advance to the state tournament beginning next Wednesday in Charleston. Forcing 46 turnovers in the game, the Lady Polar Bears were able to put the Lady Rebels away early, leading 25-2 after one period with 14 of those points coming off 13 turnovers.

“We wanted to jump on them quick,” Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines said of the fast start. “We knew that in some of their previous games, teams were able to build leads on them but they were able to come back. You have to give them credit; they fought to get here.”

Fairmont Senior opened the game scoring 19 straight points before Ritchie County got onto the board. It would be the Rebels’ only points of the quarter after having not gotten a shot off until the 4:00 mark of the opening quarter.

The Lady Polar Bears, who have been talking about Charleston since day one of the

season, knew they needed to apply one thing to turn the game in their favor, senior Kelsey Morrone said.

“Pressure,” she said. “They thought that they could stop our press and slow us down, but we showed them otherwise. We were here to win.”

Emily Stoller, who has been one of the team’s top scorers all season, lit up the stat sheet with 20 points, five steals, three assists and three rebounds. Joining her in double figures were Erica Bowles with 12 points, six steals and five assists, and Morrone, who scored 10 points, the final three coming off a deep 3-pointer to end the third quarter.

Kyle Gump led Ritchie County with eight points.

The game was never a close one, Fairmont Senior taking a 38-8 halftime lead, giving way to bench players.

The opportunity to bring in those younger players, Hines said, is how his team has had success over the past two seasons.

“That’s how we even got here. Emily and them are just juniors, too,” he said. “We have a rather young team. We have to find ways and times to get them some experience because you’ll never know when you’ll have to count on them.”

Hines’ team may have to count on one of those younger players after junior standout forward, Kaden Whaley, went down with an apparent knee injury early in the first half. With the game well in hand, she never returned to the game, scoring just two points.

“She’s one of the people that’s most definitely a foundation of our team,” Hines said of Whaley, who put a smile on through the pain as she was carried onto the court by her teammates to celebrate in the win. “Somebody else is going to have to step up (if Whaley is out). Some of these other players coming off the bench might have to step into a starting role.”

Morrone said that shouldn’t be a problem for this team, who substitutes players as fast as one can blink.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to do it,” she said. “Players are just going to have to come off the bench and play up to the level of our starters.”

Morrone, one of two seniors on the team, has been saying all season that it’s championship or bust for the Lady Polar Bears. Now, as they head back to the state tournament one season after being eliminated in the semifinals, the mission is clear.

“Nothing but winning a championship,” she said without hesitation when asked what the next step for this team was. “That’s the only thing we have our mind on.”

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

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