FAIRMONT — The East Fairmont Bees girl’s basketball team has put the state on notice this year, rumbling to a 14-2 start, the best record for the Bees at this point in a season in decades.
With the home stretch of the season coming around though, East Fairmont head coach James Beckman doesn’t want to see any of his players content with the work behind them.
“Continue to improve every day,” Beckman said of his expectations for the Bees. “Don’t get satisfied or complacent. Competition in practice, competition in games will prepare us for February.
“Everyone says they want to play their best come sectional time, well it’s not a light switch you can just flip on in February. You’ve got to compete in practice and in scrimmages all the way starting now. Competition eliminates complacency.”
After East’s 70-52 victory over Brooke on Jan. 13 only one of the Bees’ wins had been by less than 10 points, a nine-point 55-46 win over Charleston Catholic.
East Fairmont has won all four of their games since then, but each of the contests has had moments of drama for the Bees. A three-point win over Sissonville, a seven-point win over Buckhannon-Upshur, a five-point win over Elkins, and most recently a two-point win over Bridgeport — East’s late-game chops has been tested over the stretch.
“I think it just shows the toughness we have,” East Fairmont’s Kenly Rogers said. “Coach emphasizes mental toughness, and definitely down those stretches, you can’t let things get to you— missed shots, problems with foul trouble. Everybody who was in the game in those moments stepped up.”
“When you’re a good team you can pull through tough games and get close wins like that,” East’s Tarayn Myers said. “When you have a deep bench and you have girls stepping up you can have confidence in pulling games like that out.”
In Wednesday’s game against Bridgeport, the Bees held a lead for most of the game before the Indians tied things up at 45 late. Backs to the wall, the Bees put together a 7-0 run and weathered the storm to win 52-50.
“Kids keep their composure out there on the floor,” Beckman said of his team’s close victories. “There’s been times in the last couple of games where they’ve tied us or they’ve taken the lead, and we didn’t fold. We fought through the adversity those opponents threw at us, and we mustered through and prevailed.”
East’s depth came into play in that game, as it has all season.
The Bees have seven players averaging between three and nine points, with Rogers leading all scorers with 18.9 per game. East also has seven players averaging over 1.5 steals per game, as the Bees’ frenetic defense has held their opponent to 50 points or less in 11 of their 16 games.
Depth is a luxury that East has used to their advantage.
“The depth that we have, that’s different for us,” Beckman said. “We have not been able to go nine, 10 deep in years past, and for kids to be able to play the same style we play.”
Within that 10-deep mix is some seniors — like Morgan Cochran, leading the team in rebounds with 5.3 per game, and McKenzie Moyers, second on the team in steals per game with 2.6 — but many freshmen as well, like Kaille Haymond, Emma Moore and Brooklyn Shupe.
While the underclassmen are legitimately contributing to the AP’s No. 4 team in Class-AAA, the Bees see an additional benefit in giving their youngsters some run.
“I have always tried to mix different grade levels,” Beckman said. “Your seniors are going to be gone and you’ve got to have experience going into the next year. You want those freshmen and sophomores to have experience.”
East Fairmont has a big game against No. 6 Lewis County on Friday.
With mere weeks until the postseason, Rogers and Meyers say their focus is on reaching the state tournament.
“That’s what we’re going for,” Rogers said.
“Kids are working hard in practice whether it’s film study, individual skill development or whether we’re doing team,” Beckman said. “They’re buying in and when you’ve got kids buying into their role and being a part of a team, you’ve got something special. That’s been a lot of the main ingredients going into the success we’re having this season.”
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