CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Fairmont Senior battled back Saturday afternoon for its second straight Class AA boys basketball state championship, beating Chapmanville Regional 59-54.
“A lion needs to let people know why they’re the lion,” said Fairmont Senior coach Dave Retton. “I think the last three minutes of the game we let West Virginia know that we were the lion. And we’ve been the lion all year.
“To have a target on our back, we tried to state that in a different way – a positive way and put the target on other people,” he continued. “I think our guys played that way throughout the year. They played very loose.”
It’s the first back-to-back boys basketball championships for the Polar Bears’ program, which now has seven state titles.
“We never tried to repeat (as champion),” Retton said. “That’s never been a rallying cry for our basketball team. We’ve tried to improve each day, we’ve tried to get better. We played like a champ today – we played like a champ when the game mattered and that was the last three minutes.”
The Polar Bears trailed by 12 points in the first half and by as many as 10 points in the second half before sparking a fourth quarter run.
“What a job our guys did down the stretch,” Retton said. “We had key plays, defensive stops, key rebounds, key free throws, steals and I can’t say enough.”
Fairmont Senior (25-3) only led for five of the game’s 32 total minutes.
“There wasn’t (any sense of panic),” Retton said. “We just felt we needed to get some stops. We weren’t in a position where we had to get stops and take quick shots. At the beginning of the game, we took some really quick shots and we were anxious.”
Chapmanville, making its first championship appearance, raced out to a 20-8 lead after the first quarter.
The Polar Bears, in their third straight title game, answered with a 9-0 run to eventually tie the game 24-24 heading into the break.
Back-to-back 3s from Drew Williamson gave Chapmanville a 10-point advantage, 40-30, with 1:46 to go in the third quarter.
A 3 from Fairmont Senior’s Taevon Horton with 2:27 remaining in the game cut Chapmanville’s lead to 50-48. Jalen Bridges followed with another 3 to put the Polar Bears in front, 51-50 and 1:56 to go. A steal, layup-and-one from Fairmont Senior’s Deandre Payne extended the Polar Bears’ lead out to 54-50 with 1:28 remaining.
“I was just trying to deny the ball, because we were getting pressure,” Payne said. “I thought I had a chance to steal it, I put my hand up and (the ball) went flying. I laid it up and it was an and-one.”
The Polar Bears were led by Horton’s 16 points, while Bridges added 14 points. Williamson scored 26 points to lead Chapmanville (23-5) in the loss.
“We had some really good runs in the game,” said Chapmanville coach Brad Napier. “I thought the first and third quarters belonged to us. It was a game of runs and they had the run at the right time. But I’m super proud of our guys, they battled.”
Horton, Zyon Dobbs and Dante Stills made the all-tournament team from Fairmont Senior. Drew Williamson and Obinna Anochili-Killen made the team from Chapmanville, along with Jeremy Dillon and Drew Hatfield of Mingo Central. Lincoln’s Chase Riley also made the all-tournament list.