FAIRMONT, W.Va. — In addition to Thursday’s matchup against Robert C. Byrd being the regular season finale for East Fairmont, the Bees also had an opportunity to make history on their home court.
Entering with 19 wins, East Fairmont had the chance to record a single season school record 20th victory against the Eagles, which would allow this year’s group to surpass the 19-win Bees’ team from 1969.
Thanks to a significant rebounding advantage, quality offensive execution and more than adequate defensive play early and late, East Fairmont did just that, defeating the Eagles 74-52 to improve to 20-2 ahead of postseason play.
It marked another milestone on the hardwood for the Bees, whose girls basketball program carries a 21-2 record into Friday’s sectional final against Philip Barbour.
“Congratulations to our girls program and it’s the first time they’ve gotten to 20 also,” Bees’ head coach Tyrone Asterino said. “Hats off to the 1969 team, but 53 years later, we’re able to accomplish something that they won’t be able to take away from us. Very proud of our guys and coaching staff.
“It’s pretty hard today to get 20 wins and our conference is really good and has to be one or two in the state for Triple-A. We worked extremely hard in the offseason and this is what you get from it.”
The Bees built an early 15-4 lead, before the Eagles (11-11) closed the first quarter with four straight points to trail by seven.
Maddox Boyers’ basket in transition allowed EFHS to lead 25-13 with 4:14 to play in the second period, before the Eagles’ Brayden Thomason and the Bees’ Evan Parr traded three-pointers that left RCB still trailing by a dozen.
After Parr’s driving layup put the Eagles in a 30-18 hole, Thomason responded with his third trey of the second quarter.
The Bees still led by nine when Parr provided a conventional three-point play 41 seconds before halftime, but the Eagles got their deficit back to single digits courtesy of a Quinten Cooley triple from the corner.
Still, Parr’s 16 points, combined with 10 from Jackson Crouso, allowed the Bees to boast a duo that helped create a 36-27 halftime lead and managed one fewer point than the entire Eagles’ team.
“We didn’t turn it over too much,” said Asterino, whose team had three first-half turnovers. “We were able to push the ball and that’s when we’re at our best when we’re getting up and down the floor.”
East Fairmont’s Blake Hunt opened the second-half scoring with a three and though RCB responded with five unanswered points, Hunt and Parr added back-to-back triples not long after to increase East Fairmont’s lead to 47-34.
The Eagles countered with a 6-1 spurt and closed their deficit to eight on Thomason’s layup in transition, but Crouso scored four points over the final 56 seconds of the frame to help send EFHS to the fourth leading 52-42.
Much like they did to start the game, the Bees buckled down defensively in the final quarter. Not until Charles Hawkins’ follow-up nearly 3 minutes into the quarter did RCB score, and by that point, the Eagles deficit was 57-44 as Greyson Stewart made one free throw and Parr scored twice from close range to give the Bees the first five points of the fourth.
“We stepped up a little bit defensively,” Asterino said. “We switched defenses there and the change in defense helped us and affected them. That’s a good team and they have some skilled guys and a couple kids that are pretty hard to defend. I’m super proud of our guys.”
A Cooley three enabled the Eagles to trail 60-47 with 4:26 left, but Stewart and Parr both converted layups and Crouso made two free throws to end any thought of a late comeback.
“We cut it a couple times to eight and then six,” Eagles’ head coach Basil Lucas said. “It’s just difficult to dig yourself out of a hole when you get behind early in a game. I felt if we could’ve tied it up somewhere along the way or got it to within maybe four at halftime, it makes a major difference. We were down nine at halftime and our kids played really hard, but it takes so much out of you.”
Parr scored 11 points over the final two quarters to finish with a game-high 27. The 6-foot-5 Crouso added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Stewart contributed 13 points and 13 boards.
“Parr played a great game and that’s a good basketball team,” Lucas said. “They’ve won 20 games for a reason.”
Cooley’s 19 points led RCB, while Thomason added 15, though all but two came in the first half. Hawkins, with 12 points, provided a third double-figure scorer in defeat.
Half of RCB’s 10 turnovers came in the fourth quarter, while the Bees had only seven all game.
The Bees out-rebounded the Eagles 21-12 in the first half and 42-26 for the game.
“That was the biggest difference in the game,” Lucas said. “The second-chance points were something we couldn’t overcome.”