FAIRMONT — Pound-for-pound, there may not be a girls’ basketball player in the state of West Virginia with more grit and tenacity than Fairmont Senior sophomore Marley Washenitz. Corey Hines — the head basketball coach for the Polar Bears — will tell you the same thing.
“By far, and I tell people this all the time, she’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached,” he said.
That hardiness on the basketball court was on full display Saturday evening at the Fairmont Senior Armory as she led the Class AA No. 1 Polar Bears to a narrow 48-47 victory against Class AAA No. 9 Morgantown.
You could see the resolve and determination in Washenitz with each drive to the basket against a lengthy, physical Mohigan defense, as she earned seven separate trips to the free-throw line — she would finish the evening 11-14 at the stripe.
“Getting to the rim is something I’ve always focused on — you have a better chance of making a layup than a pull-up jump shot. Getting to the rim you’re either going to make a layup, miss it, or get some foul shots, and I got some foul shots in tonight,” she said.
Despite being undersized compared to a number of her opponents — standing at 5’8 — Washenitz would crash the boards with a rugged intensity, pulling down 13 rebounds in her second-consecutive double-double performance.
Defensively, it was more common to see her on the floor than standing, as she dove to make near-impossible steals and to send loose balls back towards her
teammates. And offensively, it was her floor generalship and scoring ability that led her team back from a four-point halftime deficit to earn the win — in total, she would tally 23 points, with 14 of those coming in the final two frames.
“What makes her in my opinion so tough is that she doesn’t just play hard offensively, but she plays hard defensively. She guards the one through five, and anytime you have someone who can do that, she’s going to be a threat. She doesn’t care how tall or fast her opponent is, but she’s going to sit there and try to do what she has to do to get the job done,” Hines said
“Going through basketball, not everything is going to come easy. Nobody’s perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes. Going into the game, you can’t always control things, but your aggression and effort and hustle, you can always control that. I just try to focus on things I can control,” she said.
The Polar Bears trailed 15-7 after the first eight minutes of play and 23-19 at the halftime break, getting off to a slow start against a team that is expected to be among the upper-tier of Class AAA basketball this season.
Fairmont would come out of the locker room with a bit more energy, out-scoring the Mohigans 15-12 in the third frame to pull the score within one-point — they would take their first lead of the evening near the end of the period as Washenitz pulled down a board and went coast-to-coast to draw a foul, converting both free-throws. With the game neck-and-neck, she would then lead a fourth-quarter charge where she would score seven-points to help her team secure the win, including a three-for-four effort at the charity stripe.
“A lot of that start is youth, and we’re still a work in progress. We’re developing, and we have a lot of players out there who are still developing and a lot of players who are injured. When you have that, you’ve got to put players into positions they’re not used to. To have players like Marley who work so hard through that — she wants the pressure, and that’s the thing that’s impressive,” Hines said
“Coming in as a sophomore-based team, we competed against some of the best players in the state every day in practice last year. We’re young, but we’re very prepared and I think we’re ready for,” Washenitz said.