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Fairmont Senior vs Shady Spring Part III: Three-Peat or Revenge?

Mar. 16—CHARLESTON — It is history in the making in Charleston. For the third year in a row in the West Virginia AAA high school boys basketball state tournament, Fairmont Senior and Shady Spring will play in the title game for the championship.

"It's for everything," Fairmont Senior Head Coach David Retton said. "You have two very good teams that have worked very hard to get to this place. We like to look forward, and we're just speaking for us. We're not after a three-peat, we're not after a repeat, it's one game. It's one game on Saturday for the championship."

Shady Spring punched its ticket first, beating Nitro 67-44 in the semifinal on Thursday. While he didn't know which team he'd face in the title game during the post-game press conference, Head Coach Ronnie Olson said Shady Spring is ready to take on either team from Fairmont.

"Whoever we get, east, west, north, south Fairmont, we know we're getting one and we're just excited to have an opportunity to play," Olson said. "They're both well coached and they're great teams, and we're just gonna prep and be ready."

Fairmont Senior beat East Fairmont 57-31 to punch its ticket to the final. Retton and his team know the opponent well and will do what they've been doing all year long by just seeing it as just another game to play.

The past two championship games saw Fairmont Senior beat Shady Spring by one point in 2022 and five points in 2023. In the 2022 final, then sophomore Zycheus Dobbs hit a buzzer-beater floater from the free-throw line to win the game 60-59. In 2023, DeSean Goode's 18 points lifted Fairmont Senior over Shady Spring 47-42.

Goode has since graduated, but Dobbs scored just one point in the 2023 rematch because of injury and foul trouble. Now, Dobbs, averaging 24.5 points in tournament play, enters the title game fully healthy and rarely experienced foul trouble this season. He thinks it'll be easy to be in the right mindset for Saturday's matchup.

"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."

Junior Tre Cumberledge has had a breakout year with Fairmont Senior. In tournament play, Cumberledge averages 15.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. After the quarterfinal win against Hampshire, Retton called Cumberledge "tremendous" for being a team-first player.

Shady Spring has its own dynamic player in senior Ammar Maxwell. He's scoring 21.5 points per game in the tournament and shooting 72.7 percent from the field. According to Olson, Maxwell transitioned from an outside shooter to an inside player this season.

"He's played inside a lot for us this year," Olson said after the quarterfinal win over North Marion. "If anybody's followed our program over the last four years, Ammar was exclusively a three point shooter... Ammar had big numbers his freshman and sophomore year from the three-point line. He takes what the defense gives him."

In the regular season matchup from Feb. 5, Fairmont Senior beat Shady Spring 63-53. Dobbs and Maxwell didn't lead their teams in scoring, only tallying 15 and 11 points, respectively. Cumberledge and senior Andre Grant led Fairmont Senior with 22 and 20, and juniors Jackson Williams and Jalen Bailey led Shady Spring with 22 and 16, respectively.

Olson called Fairmont Senior's defense "smothering" and even said Fairmont Senior might be more disciplined than Shady Spring is. He believes confidence will be key in the championship game on Saturday morning.

"That's a big thing for the guys, confidence," Olson said. "They're still young men. They're gonna be up and down. They don't always take things, they're upset and they can't always get over it. But that was a good win [against Nitro] to play like this and go into the state championship."

Fairmont Senior and Shady Spring tip off the title game at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Charleston Coliseum.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548