CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fairmont Senior will be making its first appearance in the Class AA boys state tournament today, but the Polar Bears are hoping to finish some business they started last season in Class AAA.Fairmont Senior came to Charleston for the state tournament a year ago and was quickly shown the door in a 71-47 loss to eventual runner-up George Washington. This year the Bears brought back the majority of that team and have been a force to be reckoned with in their first year in Class AA."From a coaching standpoint I feel that I failed in having our kids ready to perform and having them ready to play [last year]. It starts with me," Fairmont Senior coach David Retton said. "As players they were hungry after the loss to GW. It's not so much to prove anything to the rest of the state, it's to prove to us. We wanted to perform better so the kids have worked extremely hard. Our approach is that the state championship game for us is [today]. We've prepared that way since the region championship."The Polar Bears (19-6) were tabbed as the No. 2 seed in this week's tournament and will play No. 7 Scott (15-10) at 1 p.m. today. Junior Jarin Hilson and senior Travon Horton lead Fairmont Senior back into the Civic Center following sectional wins against East Fairmont and North Marion and a regional co-final win over Ritchie County.
"Their success this year had a lot to do with what they did in the off-season," Retton said. "They played a lot of basketball in AAU and worked really hard on their games."Jarin has really developed into a good defensive player, and sometimes that gets overlooked with his playmaking ability and his ability to read defenses. He's become a really good on-the-ball and help-side defender. Travon is scoring the ball really well for us and his ball-handling has improved. Both guys have really picked up and made improvement. They've been in Charleston before and that's been big for us."Horton leads Fairmont Senior with 18.4 points per game while Hilson is just behind him with 16.9.Retton also mentioned seniors DeVante Waites (12.6 points per game) and Shaquille Washington (11.4) as players who have played important roles. "[Waites] really stepped up. He's had some big games with his defense and his shooting ability," Retton said. "Washington is close to averaging a double-double. He's done a tremendous job for us. He gives us a presence inside offensively and defensively."Scott took advantage of its opportunity after losing its sectional championship game against Tolsia (which also qualified for the state tournament) and upset Poca 53-52 on the Dots' home floor in the regional to reach the Civic Center. The Skyhawks started the season 8-0 before an up-and-down second half."If you look at our losses, one was to Bluefield and one was to Wyoming East, which were both state-ranked teams," Scott coach Nick Cabell said. "We went on a stretch where we couldn't win a road game. I feel good about us [now]. We really fought hard to get the win at Poca and the boys know what it takes to bring the championship home."The Skyhawks are led by a pair of double-digit scorers in Matthew Dolan (17.0 points per game) and Eric May (10.7). Cabell said Dolan, his team's lone senior, has been the Skyhawks' leader in more ways than one."He leads by example and speaks up to let the team know what he expects of them," Cabell said. "He told the guys to get him to the state tournament and they helped him get here like he asked."May, a sophomore, plays small forward for Scott."He's a little longer than most guards and can handle the basketball," Cabell said. "He can shoot the ball well and make good decisions in transition."
Scott has never won a boys basketball state championship and has only played for the title once (a 57-48 loss to Oak Hill in 2011). Fairmont Senior has won five state championships, but only one (a 61-59 win against Robert C. Byrd in 1996) since 1949.Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.