By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
When they cut down the nets Friday night at the Woody Williams Armory, the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears were the ones holding the scissors.
Each player took home a piece of the twine, a small memento from a 59-51 victory over East Fairmont in the Section 1 championship game.
With the souvenir comes home-court advantage. The Polar Bears will host Section 2’s No. 2 seed Ravenswood Thursday at 7 p.m. East Fairmont will travel to face No. 1 seed Roane County on the same night and time.
Even though both teams advanced, it was clear from the opening tip that this game was about more than just seeding for the cross-town rivals. The scoreboard went back and forth more than the two competing student sections.
With three minutes to play, East Fairmont’s Nick Greely hit a shot to put the Bees up 46-45. But over the final two minutes, the Polar Bears outscored the Bees 14-5 to close out the game.
“I think our kids battled, but there were some possessions that West definitely won,” said East Fairmont coach Tyrone Asterino. “Those possessions were the difference in the ball game.”
The Polar Bears’ performance over the final two minutes was just another clutch showing from a team that has a knack for stepping up under pressure.
Tavon Horton, who sank two last-second free throws to beat Bridgeport earlier in the season and who hit a desperation 3-pointer to force double-overtime in the Robert C. Byrd game, scored five of his team-leading 18 points during the stretch. It helped the Polar Bears beat the Bees for the third time this season. Fairmont Senior also topped East Fairmont on Jan. 31, 69-44, and Feb. 12 by the score of 46-44.
Completing a season sweep against any team is no easy task. But to do it against your rival is something different all together.
Then again, that depends who you ask.
“Where is it written that it's not easy to beat a team three times?” said Fairmont Senior coach David Retton. “As a coach, if we beat a team twice, I think we've got what it takes to beat them a third time.”
Evidently so. But it wasn’t easy.
East Fairmont pounded the ball inside for the majority of the evening in an effort to expose Fairmont Senior’s guard-heavy lineup. The tactic helped three of East Fairmont’s forwards put up 41 of the Bees’ 51 points.
Greely was the main beneficiary with 25 points, and forward Ian Hayhurst scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds.
The Bees’ size advantage was also evident in Myles Johnson’s play. He blocked six shots — yes six — and scored seven points, almost all coming inside the paint.
“When we put the ball in there, I think we had some success,” said Asterino. “In my opinion, there were some possessions where the ball should have went in there a even little bit more.”
By contrasts, the guard-heavy Polar Bear squad came up with the deep shots when they needed them most. Junior guard Jacob Casalinuova hit three 3-pointers on his ways to a 15-point night. And Horton hit two, including one at the end of the third quarter.
Just days earlier his teammate Darhius Nunn danced across the court when he hit a similar third-quarter, buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Horton evidently wasn’t wearing his dancing shoes.
“I don’t have that dance. That’s Darhius’ dance,” Horton laughed. “I stay calm.”
Horton may want to ask Nunn (12 points on Friday) for some lessons. If the Polar Bears can pull off a win over Ravenswood, they’ll be dancing to to the state tournament in Charleston.
And you never know. They just might see their cross-town rival should they get there.
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.