CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For more than three quarters, Chapmanville Regional High School’s dream of winning a state championship seemed within grasp.
The Tigers, however, could not withstand a furious Fairmont Senior comeback as the Polar Bears won their second straight Class AA state championship with Saturday’s 59-54 victory over Chapmanville at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Tigers (23-5) led Fairmont by as many as 12 points and after a 24-all tie at halftime, Chapmanville held a 42-35 lead after three quarters of play.
Chapmanville led 46-37 with 6:35 left in the game after a dunk by 6-foot-8 freshman Obinna Killen and seemed to have the title within reach.
Fairmont (25-3), winners of 17 straight games, then stormed back.
A big 3-pointer by Tavon Horton from the corner pulled the Polar Bears to within 50-48 with 2:28 to go.
The Tigers then turned it over and Fairmont’s Jalen Bridges was able to put his team up for good as he drilled a 3 to make it 51-50.
The momentum shift continued as DeAndre Payne stole the ball away from the Tigers and then went into the lane for a layup and was fouled, bringing a roar to the Polar Bears’ fans behind the hoop. Payne added the free throw to complete the three-point play to make it 54-50 Fairmont.
Chapmanville’s Drew Williamson kept the Tigers in it with a free throw with 1:13 left as the Tigers cut it to 54-51.
Chapmanville tried to get the ball back after a Payne miss on a one-and-one but the ball was tied up and the Polar Bears were awarded the ball on the alternating possession rule.
Zyon Dobbs was then fouled with 39 seconds left and he hit both free throws to lift the Polar Bears to a 56-51 lead.
Chapmanville misssed a 3 on its next trip down the floor and Horton was fouled with 21.6 ticks to go. He connected on both free throws as the lead swelled to 58-51 pretty much ending Chapmanville’s hopes of a final minute miracle.
Williamson did hit a 3 with 15.2 seconds left to trim it to 58-54 but the Tigers threw the ball away with 10 seconds left after a tie up. Dobbs split from the foul line with 8.2 ticks left to put the win on ice.
“We had some really good runs in the game,” Chapmanville coach Brad Napier. “I thought the first and third quarters belonged to us. It was a game of runs and they had the run at the right time. But I’m super proud of our guys, they battled. From the time the tournaments starated in the sectionals to this point right here they were intense and their defense was phenomenal. The mentality of this team is unbelievably good. I’m very proud of these young men.”
Fairmont coach Dave Retton said Chapmanville took his team to the brink.
“A lion needs to let people know why they’re the lion,” Retton said. “I think the last three minutes of the game we let West Virginia know that we were the lion. And we’ve been the lion all year. To have a target on our back, we tried to restate that in a different way – a positive way and put the target on other people. I think our guys played that way throughout the year. They played very loose.”
For Fairmont, it was the school’s seventh overall state title. It’s the first time the Polar Bears have gone back-to-back.
“We never tried to repeat (as champion),” Retton said. “That’s never been a rallying cry for our basketball team. We’ve tried to improve each day, we’ve tried to get better. We played like a champ today – we played like a champ when the game mattered and that was the last three or four minutes. What a job our guys did down the stretch. We had key plays, defensive stops, key rebounds, key free throws, steals and I can’t say enough.”
Napier said Fairmont made some big plays late in the game.
“They are a state championship team for a reason. They made big plays and we made big plays,” Napier said. “It was a game of runs. If their had been another quarter left to play we might have been on another run. Both teams were evenly matched. Both teams played extremely hard. It was a game of runs and they had the last one.”
Williamson led Chapmanville with a game-high 26 points. He was 5-for-9 from 3-point land.
Killen had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also had five blocked shots and two slam dunks.
Dylan Smith finished with nine points for Chapmanville. Tyler Moore hit a 3-pointer and Kyle Browning and Hunter Neil added two points each.
Neil, a 6-foot-7 senior center, playing his last game for the Tigers, left the game early with an injured knee but returned.
Horton led Fairmont with 16 points, while Bridges had 14.
The Tigers were 20-for-41 shooting from the floor for 49 percent. Fairmont was 19-for-49 for 39 percent. CRHS made 7-of-8 of its free throws. Fairmont netted 14-for-21 from the foul line for 67 percent.
Fairmont outrebounded Chapmanville 28-26.
CRHS fell behind 4-0, 6-4 and 8-6 but the Tigers then caught fire, ending the first quarter with a 14-0 run to grab a commanding 20-8 lead.
Smith and Moore, also playing his last game as a Tiger, each hit a big 3 during the run.
Fairmont then forged a 24-all tie at halftime, hitting a 3-pointer with less than a minute to go.
The Tigers then began to pull away again in the third quarter, grabbing a 42-35 lead after three. Williamson hit three big 3-pointers during the period. Killen also put down a big slam dunk, giving the Tigers a 34-27 edge.
After Williamson hit back-to-back 3s, the Tigers led 40-30 with 1:44 left in the third.
Turnovers, however, mounted for the Tigers. CRHS committed 15 turnovers to just five for Fairmont. The Polar Bears turned that into 24 points off Chapmanville’s miscues.
“They are so athletic and long,” Napier said. “They are quick big guys. They have two or three Division I kids on the team. Everyone on their team is athletic and quick but I thought our guys did really well. Some of the turnovers were forced turnovers and the others we just got kind of lackadaisical on some of the trips. If you do that they make you pay.”
Williamson and Killen made the all-tournament team along with Fairmont’s Horton, Dobbs and Dante Stills, a West Virginia University football recruit. Mingo Central’s Jeremy Dillon and Drew Hatfield also made all-tournament as well as Lincoln’s Chase Riley.
Herbert Hoover won the School Sportsmanship Award.
CRHS was the recipient of the School Spirit Award.
All three of Fairmont’s state tournament wins came against Cardinal Conference teams. On Thursday, the Polar Bears of the Big Ten Conference, toppled No. 8 seed Herbert Hoover. Then on Friday night in the semifinals, Fairmont prevailed 62-44 over Mingo Central.
The Polar Bears had beaten Chapmanville earlier in the season, 72-54, in the Big Ten/Cardinal Conference Challenge at Clarksburg.