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State Tournament: Solid defensive effort places Polar Bears into semifinals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fairmont Senior used solid, pressure defense to work its way through the regular season and into the girls high school state tournament.

On Thursday night, a solid defensive effort carried the fifth-seeded Polar Bears into the state semifinals as Fairmont rolled to a 72-56 quarterfinal win over No. 4 Clay County at the Charleston Civic Center.

Fairmont (19-6) will face top-seeded Westside (24-1) tonight at 7:15, with a championship game berth on the line, while the Panthers' season ended at 18-7.

The Polar Bears' tough, man-to-man defense forced Clay County into a 19-of-63 (30.2 percent) shooting performance, while also forcing 27 turnovers.

"We played real well on the end and we were able to get into transition, which helped us out a lot," Fairmont Coach Corey Hines said. "Our defense is the key to our team. We're able to limit teams to one shot and then we're able to get in those lanes and we're able to finish.

"That puts us in the position that we feel if we're able to get the most layups, we're going to win the game."

Like Clay County, Fairmont struggled to take care of the basketball, finishing with 32 turnovers, but for Hines, it's a price he's willing to pay in order to press the tempo and parlay that pressure into an up-tempo game.

"Usually when you play transition basketball, that's going to happen," said Hines of his team's turnover total.

"Our motto is 'play good D and layups are the key.' We want to play well on the defensive end, jump into those passing lanes and get out and run."

Fairmont was led by sophomore Kaden Whaley, who finished with a team-high 22 points, while sophomore Emily Stoller added 15 points and nine rebounds.

Kelsey Morrone and Gabby Tenney were also strong on the boards for the Polar Bears, in finishing with eight rebounds apiece.

Clay County Coach Mary Ramsey credited the Polar Bears' defensive effort, but was also disappointed that her team couldn't seem to put the ball in the basket even when they had open looks.

"We just missed a few easy shots," Ramsey said. "They're a good team and we came out and played hard, we just couldn't get some shots to drop.

"We just held back a little bit. I don't think we played all out at first and that got us in a little slump and we couldn't fight back"

Clay County was led by Brittany Gould's game-high 24 points and eight rebounds. Gould finished 9-of-30 from the floor, while the Panthers' second leading scorer during the regular season, McKinzee Barker finished with just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting.

No other Panthers players cracked double-digits as the team finished just 2-of-14 from behind the 3-point line.


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