State tournament: Fairmont Senior advances to Class AA title game
Shaquille Washington had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Fairmont Senior ended Bridgeport's Cinderella run in the final year for veteran Coach Gene Randolph by a 65-58 count in the Class AA boys basketball state tournament semifinals Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Randolph, in his 20th season for the Indians (19-8), announced at the beginning of the season that this would be his last.
After No. 6 seed Bridgeport upset No. 3 Westside in the tournament's quarterfinal round, the Indians couldn't match the size of the second-seeded Polar Bears (21-6) or a 16-5 run in the second quarter.
Today's appearance in the title game will be the first for Fairmont Senior since it was a Class AAA program in 1998 when Beckley handed the Polar Bears a 96-48 decision in Coach Dave Retton's first season on the bench. Fairmont Senior will play at 2:30 p.m. today for the Class AA state title against the winner of the Bluefield-Robert C. Byrd game.
Fairmont Senior took control early, but Bridgeport clawed back with some aggressive dribble penetration that managed to take advantage of one of the Polar Bears' Achilles heels - lack of defensive discipline.
"It's almost like being out on the playgrounds playing in the summer league," Randolph said. "That's who they are, they're anxious about getting out and running with the ball, they chase and trap the ball and when that happens, it'll create opportunities for you.
"We wanted to exploit that if we would, for a couple of reasons: to get to the hoop, show some aggression, but we thought they might be a little undisciplined from the standpoint of committing fouls."
Retton is confident his team will fix its tendencies against the dribble drive today.
"Our thing is we don't want to foul, we really don't," Retton said. "We started fouling and we got a little apprehensive, they got too deep in our defense. We should have fouled closer to the 3-point line, farther away from the basket. We'll do a better job of that tomorrow. I have a lot of confidence in our guys. We've got very smart guys, they think the game, they know the game."
Fairmont Senior survived a Bridgeport run that cut the lead to one after a Tyler Sprouse 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining in the game. The Polar Bears were 1-of-9 from 3-point range in the second half.
"We wanted to come out and be more aggressive, we felt like we were standing around offensively, we wanted to put pressure on their defense, and we were able to do that," Sprouse said.
Jarin Hilson hit a pair of free throws, Travon Horton added a tip-in and Bridgeport wrapped up the verdict by hitting four free throws. Despite a 10-of-19 showing from the foul line - compared to 17-of-19 for Bridgeport - the Polar Bears had 20 assists on 24 shots. Fairmont Senior also outscored the Indians 18-13 on second-chance points.
"I thought those rebounds by Horton were backbreakers," Retton said.
"There's a tremendous amount of athleticism there," Randolph said. "That got us on the flip side early, second half we did a much better job off the glass, but they got some critical offensive things in there."
Horton and Hilson had 19 points apiece for Fairmont Senior, which combined with Bridgeport for only 12 turnovers in the game.
Bridgeport, however, had only eight assists.
Jordan Haywood had 17 points and nine rebounds for Bridgeport, while John Wilfong added 16 points and eight boards.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.