Fairmont Senior beats Chapmanville for Class AA boys basketball state championship

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail
Fairmont Senior’s Zyon Dobbs (left) and Dasilas Jones leap as they celebrate with their teammates after winning the Class AA championship over Chapmanville.

Fairmont Senior pulled one off the hard way Saturday afternoon.

Trailing virtually the entire second half, the top-seeded and defending champion Polar Bears closed with a 14-4 run over the final 2:30 to capture a 59-54 victory over Chapmanville Regional in the Class AA boys basketball championship game at the Charleston Civic Center.

The pressure defense of Fairmont (25-3), which didn’t frazzle the first-time finalists from Logan County much of the way, forced back-to-back turnovers to take the lead for good.

A Jalen Bridges 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:54 left followed one Tigers turnover and gave the Polar Bears a 51-50 advantage — their first lead since 8-6 in the first quarter. A few seconds later, Polar Bears reserve guard Deandre Payne swiped the ball and sailed in for a layup and a three-point play.

In a span of less than 30 seconds, Fairmont Senior went from being down by two points to being up by four. It was a lead the Polar Bears never gave back as they ended the season with 17 straight wins.

“We never tried to repeat,’’ said Fairmont Senior coach David Retton. “That has never been the rallying cry for our basketball team. ... But we played like champions today; we played like champs when the game mattered, the last three, four minutes.

“I got a text from J.L. Abbott [the school’s football coach] and it said, ‘A lion needs to let people know why they’re the lion.’ The last three minutes, we let West Virginia know we were the lion, and we’ve been the lion all year, with a target on our back.’’

Fairmont Senior became the sixth team since 1988 to capture consecutive titles in AA, joining Bluefield (2013-14), Oak Hill (2010-11), Wyoming East (2007-08), Bluefield (1995-96) and Williamson (1988-89).

For the longest time on Saturday, however, it seemed like the third-seeded Tigers (23-5) might pull off the upset.

They led by 10 points at 40-30 late in the third quarter and were still up until about the two-minute mark of the final quarter.

Chapmanville was fueled by the shooting of junior guard Drew Williamson, who knocked down four 3-pointers in the third quarter and scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half after a quiet first half.

“They got in a little bit of foul trouble,’’ Tigers coach Brad Napier said of the Polar Bears, “and they were really aggressively guarding [Williamson], trying to run him off the 3-point line. When they backed off a little bit, it enabled us to get some open looks and we called some different sets to work better.’’

A feed from Williamson to Obinna Anochili-Killen in the low post gave Chapmanville a 50-45 lead with 2:50 remaining in the game, but the Tigers then went scoreless for nearly two minutes as Fairmont Senior rattled off nine straight points to go up 54-50.

Williamson then made 1 of 2 at the line, but the Tigers wasted a golden opportunity with 51 seconds left when Payne missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Killen and Fairmont Senior’s Justin Lee fought for the rebound, and the Polar Bears were awarded possession of a tied ball.

Zyon Dobbs gave the Polar Bears some cushion by making two free throws at the 39-second mark and, following a missed 3 by Williamson, Taevon Horton hit two more at the line and Fairmont Senior led 58-51.

Williamson bombed in his fifth 3 of the game to make it 58-54 with 15 seconds left, giving Chapmanville one more chance.

The Tigers forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a tied ball at midcourt, but the ensuing play resulted in another turnover as a pass to Williamson on the baseline went too long and sailed out of bounds with nine seconds left as Williamson claimed he was being held by a defender. That more or less sealed it.

“All the credit goes to Chapmanville,’’ Retton said. “They outplayed us. When you feel you’ve outplayed somebody for 28, 29 minutes [and lose] — I’ve been in that locker room.

“What a job our guys did down the stretch — key plays, defensive stops, free throws, steals. I can’t say enough. We really played well those last three, four minutes. Almost a perfect game outside of one or two free throws.’’

Horton led Fairmont Senior with 16 points and Bridges scored 14.

The Polar Bears finished with 15 offensive rebounds and forced Chapmanville into 15 turnovers, with Fairmont turning those mistakes into 24 points.

“They’re so athletic and long,’’ Napier said. “Not quick little guys; they’re quick big guys. They’ve got two, three Division I kids on their team. Everybody on their team is athletic and quick.

“But I’m super proud of our guys. They battled from the time the tournament started in the sectionals until this time right here. They were intense and their defense was phenomenal. Their attention to detail in practice was great. Mentally, this team is unbelievably good.’’

Killen, an intriguing 6-foot-8, 185-pound freshman, capped an eye-opening state tournament for Chapmanville with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and two more dunks. Williamson was 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 9 of 15 in overall shooting.

“This means the world,’’ Williamson said of playing in the state finals. “I’m proud of the team I play with. They’re amazing guys and I love them all to death. I knew we would come in and play hard and we’d make it a great game.’’

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

Fairmont Senior 59, Chapmanville 54

Chapmanville (23-5)

M FG FT RA P

Anochili-Killen 32 5-9 2-2 10 1 12

Browning 32 1-4 0-0 5 6 2

Smith 32 3-7 2-2 2 2 9

Williamson 29 9-15 3-4 2 3 26

Neil 12 104 0-0 1 0 2

Mullens 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Williams 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Collins 2 0-1 0-0 1 0 0

Toney 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Moore 19 1-1 0-0 2 0 3

Ellis 0+ 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Team 3

Totals 160 20-41 7-8 26 12 54

Fairmont Senior (25-3)

M FG FT R A P

Horton 29 5-8 3-4 2 1 16

Dobbs 32 1-11 5-6 4 2 7

Bridges 23 5-10 1-2 5 1 14

Lee 32 1-9 2-2 6 6 4

Stills 19 3-6 2-5 5 0 8

Payne 12 2-3 1-2 1 1 6

Jones 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Amos 7 1-1 0-0 2 1 2

Shields 5 1-1 0-0 0 0 2

Team 3

Totals 160 19-49 14-21 28 12 59

Chapmanville 20 4 18 12 —54

Fairmont Senior 8 16 11 24 —59

3-point goals: Chapmanville 7-15 (Browning 0-2, Smith 1-2, Williamson 5-9, Collins 0-1, Moore 1-1). Fairmont Senior 7-16 (Horton 3-4, Dobbs 0-2, Bridges 3-7, Lee 0-2, Payne 1-1).

All-tournament team

Fairmont Senior: Taevon Horton, Zyon Dobbs, Dante’ Stills

Chapmanville: Drew Williamson, Obinna Anochili-Killen

Mingo Central: Jeremy Dillon, Drew Hatfield

Lincoln: Chase Riley

Team awards

School sportsmanship: Herbert Hoover

School spirit: Chapmanville

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