Fairmont Senior entered the halftime locker room with a narrow 29-27 lead during Saturday’s Class AA girls basketball state championship game with Wyoming East at the Charleston Coliseum.
While the teams’ point totals were virtually identical at that point, the body language and energy couldn’t have been much different.
The No. 1-seeded Polar Bears fell into a 17-3 hole from the outset but stormed back behind freshman Marley Washenitz’s game-high 18 points as the Polar Bears drew even and then pulled away with a 51-39 win. It was Fairmont Senior’s second state championship in three years.
Abby Faulkner and Washenitz hit back-to-back shots to end the first half with the 29-27 lead being Fairmont Senior’s first of the game.
Although the Polar Bears (25-3) were a little late to get started, once they did it was all downhill as they clamped down on the Warriors and rolled in the second half, limiting East to 23.3 percent shooting after a hot start and 4 of 24 in the second half.
“They came out hot and we expected that, they’re a great team,” Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines said. “The thing is, you’ve got to keep your head. Listen there’s going to be a run. We could’ve folded, but this team is resilient.”
“It was an excellent team effort. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of people and the way we handled adversity.”
Fairmont Senior’s Anysa Jordan completed quite a redemption story of her own after bursting onto the scene as a sophomore in the Polar Bears’ title-winning season two years ago and missing the 2017-18 season with a knee injury.
Jordan squared off with Wyoming East’s 6-foot-5 post Emily Saunders defensively and more than held her own, limiting Saunders to six points while scoring 15 of her own, including making 3 of 6 shots from 3-point distance.
“This one feels even better [than the first championship],” Jordan said. “It hasn’t even really hit me yet. It feels good to go out with a bang, especially with this group of girls.”
Wyoming East (24-4) came out on fire, hitting four 3s during the initial 17-3 spurt, with Jazz Blankenship hitting two of them and Katie Daniels and Skylar Davidson one apiece.
Blankenship added a third trey in the second quarter to temporarily hold off the hard-charging Polar Bears, making the score 22-15 with 5:02 remaining.
But a 14-6 run the rest of the quarter sent the Polar Bears into the break riding a wave of momentum they wouldn’t relinquish as Wyoming East found open shots less frequent and more difficult to convert. After the 17-3 start, the Warriors were outscored 48-22 the rest of the way.
“We tried to stay positive at halftime,” Wyoming East coach Angie Boninsegna said. “I think [Fairmont Senior’s] depth came into play there, they could go deeper than we could. That affected the outcome of game. But I’m proud of these kids, they fought hard all year, it’s just a hard day today.”
At the center of it was Washenitz, who picked up two early fouls and, after checking out temporarily, came back in the second quarter playing with moxie and poise above her age. She finished with seven steals and held Wyoming East point guard Skylar Davidson to 1-of-7 shooting.
“Marley has guts, you have to,” Hines said. “We tell her, ‘You’re bigger than the moment,’ and she agrees. When she came in and made those plays, that picked her team up too.”
Saunders blocked 10 shots and set a tournament record with 21 in three games. The Tennessee signee, along with Blankenship, Daniels and Brooke Russell, completed storied careers with mixed results in Charleston that included a title as freshmen but disappointing championship-game losses in each of the past two seasons.
Blankenship finished as Wyoming East’s lone double-digit scorer with 11 points, nine of those coming in the first half. Faulkner finished with 10 for Fairmont Senior.