Junior Noah Frampton, Poca's top scorer, slashes to the basket against Scott in the Region 4 co-finals.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite finishing as the Class AA runner-up last season, perhaps no team had a rougher road to get back to the state tournament than Fairmont Senior.The Polar Bears (15-9) lost all five starters from that team and played one of the more brutal schedules in the state, with four of their losses coming to Class AAA teams and two coming to Class AA No. 1 Robert C. Byrd. One of those contests was a 74-71 triple-overtime win for Byrd.So when Tavon Horton's buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Ravenswood in a regional co-final sent the Polar Bears packing for Charleston, Fairmont coach David Retton was hardly surprised at what his tested team had accomplished."We wanted to go to states, we set that as a goal as a coaching staff in November," Retton said. "I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys in where they started and how far they've come. We're excited to be at the tournament, but we want to come and get something done."To do that, No. 7 Fairmont will have to do something that only Byrd has done this year - beat No. 2 Poca.The Dots carry a 22-game win streak into the teams' quarterfinal matchup at 1 p.m. today at the Charleston Civic Center.With the 56-50 setback against the Eagles in the third game of the season the only blemish on its ledger, Poca has recorded quite the impressive campaign, winning its other 24 contests by an average of 32 points.None of those contests were decided by less 10 points, while Fairmont Senior played 15 games decided by single digits.But despite Poca's relative inexperience in tight situations, coach Allen Osborne expects that his Dots would be just fine."I'd like to think they'd be OK," Osborne said. "Every day in practice we put time and score situations on and we've done it throughout the whole year. The RCB game was a close game and we've had a couple of tight situations here and there."
Of course, it may not exactly be a bad thing that Poca has managed to win via blowout all year long.The Dots (24-1) rely on what is surely one of the most balanced attacks in any classification, with junior Noah Frampton (15.1 points per game), junior Matt Chandler (14.6), freshman Elijah Cuffee (14.2), and freshman Luke Frampton (10.5) all averaging in double figures.Poca also brings with it a defense that is yielding just 39.72 points per game. That unit has been even stingier as of late, holding eight of its last 11 opponents under 40 points."I'm very impressed with what I see on tape," Retton said of the Dots. "On offense they get great spacing, they know how to read screens and do a tremendous job on flares, curls, back-cuts and they have kids that can shoot the basketball."Defensively, they're just as sound. They guard the ball extremely well and get guys on help defense. They're a very aggressive team offensively and defensively."
But Fairmont is also hot, having won 10 of its last 12.Horton, a junior guard, leads the charge, averaging a little over 13 points, while sophomore Darhius Nunn scores 12 per contest."First of all, they beat Westside, they beat Bridgeport, and they took Robert C. Byrd to triple overtime, so they're a very good basketball team," Osborne said of the Polar Bears. "They have good quickness at the guards with Horton and Nunn, they have kids inside that can score - we're going to have to get back on defense because they can push the ball back up the floor really quick."It's going to be a very good basketball game, they're very well coached, and it'll be a heck of a challenge."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.