It’s not like Braxton County didn’t play hard, in fact it played well for long stretches.
But as every team that has run into Fairmont Senior this season has found out, a solid effort wasn’t nearly enough.
The top-seeded Polar Bears ran their unblemished record to 24-0 and did so with relative ease, blitzing No. 8 Braxton with pressure defense and athleticism in a 98-62 win in a Class AA quarterfinal Wednesday night at the Charleston Civic Center.
Fairmont will play in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday against No. 4 Philip Barbour, which defeated No. 5 Bluefield 57-56 Wednesday night.
“I think we got off to a pretty good start,” Fairmont coach David Retton said. “Imposing our will. We knew they were going to play hard. They’ve had an outstanding season.
“I’m very elated. I may not show it, but we’re moving on to Friday at 1 o’clock.”
Fairmont used a 25-5 run to close the second quarter and turn a 13-point advantage into a 33-point halftime lead, and the Polar Bears never looked back. Senior point guard Taevon Horton punctuated the run with a one-handed, put-back slam dunk over a mess of bodies in the lane.
Junior guard Zyon Dobbs was a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and 5 for 5 from the free-throw line for 21 points in the opening half and finished with 28 points to lead all scorers. Dobbs also had a game-high six steals.
“At that time I thought our defense was pretty decent,” Retton said of the second-period spurt. “We can score pretty quickly and we can score in bunches, but that scoring comes from our defense.”
Horton added 21 points and eight rebounds, Jalen Bridges chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds and Dante’ Stills finished with 12 points and six boards. Dasilas Jones had nine points and six assists, leaving the starting five one point short of putting all five players in double figures.
Fairmont Senior carried a ton of expectations and hype to Charleston this week as the Polar Bears began their pursuit of a third consecutive state championship in a row. If they can pull it off, the Polar Bears would be the first team to win three straight Class AA titles since Northfork’s historic run of eight from 1974-1981.
The Polar Bears entered the tournament averaging just over 99 points per game over their past six contests and continued their torrid late-season onslaught Wednesday. The stat sheet said it all.
Fairmont enjoyed a 46-34 advantage on the boards, with 22 of the offensive variety, and forced 22 turnovers, with 15 of them coming by way of steals.
Braxton County (21-5) hung around for the first quarter and a half. The Eagles hit 4 of 8 3-pointers in the first half and pulled down 16 offensive rebounds of their own. Cole Browning scored 22 points to lead Braxton and Seth Arnold chipped in 10. Tayton Stout just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. The Eagles were only outscored by three points in the second half.
But the first-half damage was enough to put the outcome out of reach.
“That’s an incredibly good basketball team,” Braxton coach Josh Lunceford said of the Polar Bears. “But I’m pretty proud of my basketball team as well. We knew coming in they had to shoot the ball poorly and we couldn’t turn the ball over, and I don’t think either of those things happened.
“I’ve never seen a high school team put together like that. It’s impressive and it’s scary.”