CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Winfield coach Chris Stephens wasn’t sure what would come of the Generals’ matchup with Fairmont Senior in Wednesday’s Class AAA quarterfinal, but Stephens was sure of one thing: His team’s best chance to pull an upset was preventing the Polar Bears from scoring near the rim.
Sure enough, seventh-seeded Winfield held second-seeded Fairmont Senior to less than 38 percent shooting and 24 of the Polar Bears’ 45 field-goal attempts came from three-point range. In turn, the Generals advanced to a state semifinal by holding off FSHS, 49-45.
“We told the kids all week we needed to keep them from getting easy paint points,” Stephens said. “For the most part, we did that. We got rebounds and made free throws when we needed to.”
Although Dominic Viani keyed the Polar Bears (15-2) to a 15-8 lead with eight points in the opening quarter, that was Fairmont Senior’s best stretch of the contest.
The Generals (14-6) settled in during the second quarter and went on top 19-18 on a conventional three-point play from Seth Shilot. After the Polar Bears regained the lead, a three-pointer from Daven Wall — Winfield’s third of the quarter — tied the game at 22 going into halftime.
Both teams attempted 15 triples in the opening half, though the Generals made five, compared to the Polar Bears’ three.
“Winfield did an outstanding job defensively,” Fairmont Senior coach David Retton said. “They’re very deserving and earned the win. We couldn’t get any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. We struggled putting the ball in the basket. Our defense was good, but we needed some shots to fall and we didn’t have many that fell.”
The game was tied on four separate occasions in the third quarter, though Fairmont Senior’s 26-24 advantage proved to be its last lead.
Shilot made a pair of third-quarter threes, while Jaelin Johnson scored seven of the Polar Bears’ 12 points in the period, leaving Winfield in front 37-34 ahead of the fourth.
“It’s a low possession game, so all the plays throughout the game certainly add up,” Retton said.
The Generals displayed patience offensively down the stretch and attempted only three field goals in the final period. Their lone basket came with 5:01 remaining when Carson Crouch scored inside for the first points of the quarter.
From that point forward, WHS made 10-of-18 free throws to remain on top.
The Polar Bears got a layup from freshman Zycheus Dobbs to close to within 44-41 with 2:03 left, while two free throws from Johnson allowed them to trail by two with 1:21 to play.
Two more free throws from Johnson cut Winfield’s lead to 46-45 with 37 seconds left, before Ethan Kincaid split two free throws.
Johnson drove to the basket and put up an off-balance shot in an effort to tie, but it missed, forcing the Polar Bears to foul Shilot, who made two free throws with 6 seconds remaining to seal the outcome.
“Whenever we play hard, it’s going to be tough to beat us,” Kincaid said. “It feels great, especially beating the two seed.”
The Polar Bears made 5-of-24 threes, but missed all 11 tries beyond the arc outside of Viani and Johnson.
“I get credit for some of the defensive stuff, but they go out and play hard and if they’re not getting stops, then I’m not a good coach,” Stephens said.
WHS was led by Shilot’s 16 points and nine rebounds. Crouch added 10 points and Kincaid scored nine.
Johnson had 22 points, eight rebounds and four steals in his final high school game. Viani added 11 points, but the rest of the Polar Bears shot 6 for 23 and scored 12 points. FSHS finished with 16 points in the paint.
“We didn’t do the things we typically do in our offense,” Retton said. “They played outstanding defense. We needed to be more patient and we weren’t at times.”
The Generals move on to face Shady Spring in a semifinal Friday.