CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After consecutive runner-up finishes in Class AA, Fairmont Senior broke through Saturday for its first girls basketball championship since 1997, beating Bluefield 54-42.
“I’m so proud,” said Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines. “From the players on the floor to the players on the bench and my coaches. Just a wonderful job.”
The win completed Hines’ seventh year as head coach – he previously led the Polar Bears to semifinal finishes in 2013 and 2014, along with those runner-up seasons in 2015 and 2016.
“The school is probably going to get plenty more (titles),” Hines said. “But this one right here? I know what it means to me – I know what it means not to have my best friend here who has been coaching with me and told me we were going to do this.
“I know what it means to have someone hire you and you’re the first African-American head coach in that school’s history – the school has been open for over 85 years,” he continued. “Chad Norman believed in me and gave me an opportunity. I know what it means to my grandmother and my grandfather – people who went to school there. It’s special.”
Seniors Erica Bowles and Abby Stoller were a part of those two recent title losses. Bowles – and teammate Anysa Jordan – finished tied as the leading scorers for all games, averaging 23.3 points per contest.
Bowles also led the entire tournament in field goals made (22) and defensive steals (four per game), while Stoller led the tournament in assists per game (3.7).
“It means everything,” Stoller said. “All the hard work that we’ve put into practice – and sprints that we ran — finally paid off. It’s a great feeling. It’s amazing. I feel like I’m dreaming.”
The sophomore Jordan, meanwhile, also led the AA tournament with 38 rebounds overall (12.7 per game) and 28 made free throws.
“I feel like I wanted it more this year and last year I was just nervous because I was a freshman,” Jordan said. “This year I felt like everyone put in the work to do it and we wanted it.”
On Saturday, specifically, Bluefield (23-3) and Fairmont Senior (24-4) were tied 12-12 after the first quarter. The Polar Bears, though, dominated the second quarter 15-3 and took a 27-12 lead into the break.
“They were getting a little bit tired and we were able to get into those lanes defensively,” Hines said of that second quarter effort. “We were able to give them a couple of different looks, get some steals and score in transition.”
A 3 from Bowles at the 1:33 mark of the third quarter extended the Polar Bears’ lead out to 17, 41-24, as a state title for seemed inevitable for Fairmont Senior.
“That 3 was a momentum change for sure,” Bowles said. “But the difference last year to this year is that last year I was thinking about ‘what if we lose?’ But this year, it never even entered my mind. I just kept thinking about the celebration after we win.”
The Beavers did answer with a 7-0 run to pull within 41-31 and 5:49 to go. A jumper from Alyssa Lester brought the Beavers to within seven points, 47-40 and just 1:10 remaining.
But, ultimately, it was Fairmont Senior’s day – and Fairmont Senior’s year.
A put-back-and-one from Anysa Jordan secured the Polar Bears’ lead 53-42 and just 33 seconds remaining.
Bowles led Fairmont Senior with 23 points in the win, while Jordan scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Jaisah Smith led Bluefield with 12 points in the loss.
Jordan, Bowles and Stoller were named to the Class AA all-tournament team, along with Bluefield’s Smith, Dani Janutolo and Autumn Spangler. Winfield’s ZZ Russell and North Marion’s Christa Tobin rounded out the all-touranment team.