Fairmont Senior beats East Fairmont 57-31, advances to third straight final against Shady Spring

Mar. 15—CHARLESTON — The fourth and definite final matchup this season of one of the oldest rivalries in West Virginia, No. 1 Fairmont Senior and No. 4 East Fairmont played out Thursday in the AAA state semifinal matchup to decide No. 2 Shady Spring's opponent on Saturday.

Not letting the triple overtime loss happen a second time, Fairmont Senior controlled the game in all categories against East Fairmont, winning 57-31. Fairmont Senior moves on to its third straight state title game and third straight title game against Shady Spring.

"Just another strong performance defensively," Fairmont Senior Head Coach David Retton said. "I thought our guys did an outstanding job with giving help. [East Fairmont is] very strong. They're very big inside, they got good size. I thought our guys for the most part took away their size inside with what we were doing on the outside, with our pressure on the perimeter, as well as how well these guys moved on the ball on the inside."

Fairmont Senior senior Zycheus Dobbs led the game in scoring, totaling 21 points. He also got the double-double with 10 rebounds. Dobbs also tallied seven assists, four steals and two blocks in 30 minutes.

Polar Bear junior Tre Cumberledge followed Dobbs in scoring with 13 points and rebounds with seven. Senior Andre Grant had 11 points and four assists, making it three players in double-digit scoring for Fairmont Senior.

"I think it goes back to our standards," Retton said. "It goes back to expectations. But again, it goes back to the work that these guys do in practice and how focused they are on the team and sharing the ball and making sure that the best shot gets taken. Our whole team dose a very good job of that."

For East Fairmont, senior Maddox Boyers scored 14 points for most on his team. Senior Jackson Crouso was shut down and scored only five points and grabbed seven rebounds. No other East Fairmont player scored more than four points.

"They pressure high, so a lot of times you can catch them off guard on driving," Boyers said. "They play so high, you were able to rip and take it to the basket. They try to stop the offense, so going against what you're trying to do, not being predictable, I guess."

The Dobbs-Crouso matchup played a key part in the result. Dobbs said it was a team effort, and Crouso credited Dobbs as one of the best he's played against.

"I got to give all the credit to [Dobbs]," Crouso said. "He's a great player, probably the best I've seen all year. He's an excellent defender, really strong with the ball as well."

East Fairmont gave Fairmont Senior its only loss so far this season, beating Fairmont Senior 59-55 in triple overtime. Head Coach Ty Asterino said the difference then and now was who reacted to who in each game.

"The time we beat them, we didn't flinch, and when we didn't flinch, they had to react to us," Asterino said. "Tonight, they made us adjust and made us do things that we're not very comfortable in doing, and that's the difference in the game."

Fairmont Senior clearly won the turnover battle, forcing 15 from East Fairmont and giving the ball away only four times. The Polar Bears scored 22 points off takeaways, while East Fairmont had only five.

The majority of Fairmont Senior's scoring also came from inside the paint with 42. East Fairmont, meanwhile, had 12. Fairmont Senior also had 14 fast break points and East Fairmont had none.

"Just the team doing their job being in position," Cumberledge said. "We just executed off the rebound and pushing the ball."

Both teams played hard, fighting for the ball in every moment. At one point in the first quarter, blood spilled when Crouso took Cumberledge's elbow to the face, causing a delay to clean up blood on the floor. Fairmont Senior's tight defense and fast offense, however, got them an early lead, and the Polar Bears led the Bees 18-8 at the end of one.

East Fairmont's defense managed to slow down Fairmont Senior's offense a little, allowing just nine points, but the Fairmont Senior defense all but shutout the East Fairmont offense, allowing just one bucket, a layup by Crouso. At halftime, Fairmont Senior held a 27-10 lead.

A mix of good defense and poor offense dominated in the third quarter. Despite this, both teams scored 11 points each, maintaining Fairmont Senior's 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter 38-21.

Fairmont Senior's offense found its rhythm again in the fourth quarter. The Polar Bears extended the lead dramatically and gave their starters a rest with two minutes to go in the game. With the game clinched, Fairmont Senior beat East Fairmont 57-31.

For the Bees, it's the end of a season to remember. First state tournament appearance in 10 years climaxed with the first state tournament win in 23 years. The graduating senior group leaves a lasting legacy with bonds going back to fourth grade.

"I wouldn't want to play with anybody else than my team," East Fairmont senior Greyson Stewart said. "We've been together forever. It's been awesome."

In a title series reminiscent of the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors, Fairmont State and Shady Spring will play for the third straight championship game in a row. Shady Spring beat Nitro 67-44 to reach its fourth straight title game appearance.

Fairmont Senior leads the series 2-0 and won the regular season matchup 63-53 on Feb. 5. The teams are rather familiar with each other in the state championship setting. Dobbs said that it's easy to get in the right mindset just by viewing the title game as any other game.

"I feel like it's easy to get in the right mindset," Dobbs said. "Even though it is a state championship game, it's another game that we want to win. I just feel like just going into the game knowing that it's another game, it's just easier to get that right mindset with our teammates."

Fairmont Senior Versus Shady Spring: Title Game Edition Part III tips off Saturday morning at 10 in the Charleston Coliseum.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548