Kayson Nealy

Fairmont Senior’s Kayson Nealy (4) runs with the ball while being chased by North Marion’s Tiriq Miller (2) during a game earlier this season.

FAIRMONT — Four seasons ago in 2016, both North Marion and Fairmont Senior broke new ground in their respective program histories. That 2016 campaign marked North Marion’s first playoff appearance since 2002 and Fairmont Senior’s first state title game appearance since 1981 (ironically, the Polar Bears lost to North Marion in that ‘81 championship game giving the Huskies back-to-back Class AAA state titles).

Fast forward to 2019 and North Marion is back in the Class AA postseason field after a two-year drought, while playoff fixture Fairmont Senior is now chasing a fourth consecutive Class AA state title game appearance and a state championship repeat.

Both the No. 14-seeded Huskies (7-3) and No. 1-seeded Polar Bears (10-0) will enter the first round of the Class AA playoffs this weekend against unfamiliar foes. North will travel to Poca to take on the No. 3-seeded Dots (10-0) in the first ever meeting between the two schools, while Fairmont Senior will host No. 16 Winfield (7-3) in what is another first-ever meeting.

While the Poca-Winfield tandem is generally unfamiliar with the North Marion-Fairmont Senior duo, the two pairings are somewhat analogous to one another. Essentially comparing the Dots and Generals is a lot like comparing the Polar Bears and Huskies.

Like Fairmont Senior and North Marion, Poca and Winfield are just 18 minutes apart, play each other on an annual basis, and share many of the same opponents. Poca enters the playoffs undefeated at 10-0 paralleling Fairmont Senior, while Winfield is 7-3 ala North Marion. Even the Dots and Generals seedings — 13 spots apart — is the exact same as the difference between Fairmont Senior (No. 1) and North Marion (No. 14).

Digging deeper, out of Winfield’s three losses, one came versus Poca in a head-to-head, another came against a common opponent the Dots defeated (Mingo Central), and a third came against an uncommon opponent (Hurricane). NMHS and FSHS follow a similar trend, with the Huskies’ three losses this season coming to the Polar Bears in a head-to-head, against a common opponent Fairmont Senior defeated (Bridgeport), and versus an uncommon opponent (Liberty).

Finally, Poca’s and Winfield’s point margins against common opponents somewhat mirrors the differential between Fairmont Senior and North Marion in such games. The Dots and Generals have faced eight common opponents (not counting each other), while the Polar Bears and Huskies have played six common opponents.

The Dots defeated those eight teams by an average of 36.6 points a game (48.5 points scored, 11.9 points allowed), while the Generals won those games by an average of 22.9 points a game (42.5 PPG, 19.6 PAG). Fairmont Senior defeated its six common opponents by an average of 45.7 points a game (50.5 PPG, 4.8 PAG), while North Marion defeated those same opponents by 18.9 points a game (35.7 PPG, 16.8 PAG).

Email Bradley Heltzel at bheltzel@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.

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