SHORT GAP - On a rainy Thursday evening, Abby Beeman reigned the hardwood and drained 32 points as the Lady Falcons flew past a powerhouse pack of Polar Bears 63-51 to capture the Region I Championship.
Recently Fairmont Senior has been synonymous with success winning the 2017 Class AA State Championship and finishing Runner-Up in 2016 and 2015. With Head Coach Corey Hines at the helm, Fairmont Senior has proven they are an elite organization and this year was no different. Fairmont Senior posted a regular season record of (18-5) ranking securely in the Top 5 by both the AP & Coaches polls all season. Exactly one year ago on March 1st, the Frankfort Falcons took a trip to Marion County for a regional playoff clash and the physical presence of the Polar Bears was incontrovertible as they pounded and punished Frankfort en route to a 66-53 victory to claim regional supremacy.
Entering Thursday evening, the Falcons sported a 9 game winning streak which included a key victory over rival Keyser to secure the Section I Championship, locking up home court advantage in Regional play. A preview of the Regional Championship game took place in the Fairmont Senior Armory two days before Santa Claus came to town as the Polar Bears physically manhandled Frankfort 73-56. On Thursday evening shock and disbelief quickly crossed the Mountain state as tweets poured out of Short Gap detailing the fall of Goliath at the hands of a speedy 5’4” Point Guard and her cast of Fightin’ Falcons.
The game started off a bit shaky as poor shooting plagued both teams but Frankfort’s Makenna Douthitt broke the ice and scored the first points of the game at the 6 minute mark. Frankfort held the Polar Bears scoreless until 3:15 remained in the 1st quarter and the scoreboard displayed 2-2. Makenna Douthitt scored another field goal for the Falcons at the 2 minute mark to give Frankfort the lead 4-2 after 6 minutes of play. That was the last time the score was tied as Frankfort went wire-to-wire never allowing Fairmont Senior to hold a lead. The score was 10-4 after the 1st quarter of play then the offense heated up for both squads with Frankfort holding a 30-26 lead at halftime. The start of the 3rd quarter was perhaps the most important 3 minutes of the entire game for Frankfort as they went on a 11-0 run to take command of the game leading 41-26 before Fairmont could find a bucket.
Coach Mike Miller talked about the explosion after halftime, “Well at the end of the 1st half they went on a little run to cut it to 4 and we weren’t happy with that because we allowed them to get in the paint and get some easy shots. I told our girls we have 16 minutes and the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half is crucial and if we can get any kind of a run sustained, I don’t think they are going to come back.” All-State Abby knew it was her time to shine and she torched the nets for 13 points in the 3rd quarter shooting arrows from downtown Fort Ashby. Fairmont Senior had one last gasp of life in the 4th quarter trimming the lead to 10 points twice, but the clock became the enemy while the fouls piled up and the Falcons flexed their feathers and hit their free throws to claim the Regional Crown.
Same season, same teams, different location, different script. Was home court advantage the reason why the Falcons prevailed? Fairmont Senior Head Coach Corey Hines explained, “I don’t really believe in that. As a team coming in I felt very comfortable, I thought we had a great gameplan, I thought our coaches worked their butts off, but we just didn’t apply.” Coach Hines furthered his point, “If you don’t apply what you are work on, I don’t care where you play.""We could have played in them in the park and they still would have beaten us.” Fairmont Senior Coach Corey Hines
So if home court advantage wasn’t the key difference what was the deciding factor? Coach Hines pointed out, “I think the biggest difference is our team had more of a passion and hunger at that time (referring to December). This time I felt some of our team was tired and I didn’t get the same effort.”
When comparing the game in December to the Regional Championship the biggest difference was the Falcons ability to handle the physical play of Fairmont Senior.
Coach Mike Miller talked the change in mindset, “We just had to have a mentality where we weren’t going to allow that to happen. I told the girls if you come in here and force them to shoot from the outside, keep them off the boards, you will go to Charleston. It was that simple.” So how did the Lady Falcons get prepared to fight a physical pack of Polar Bears? “In practice coaches got in there and muscled them up. We told the girls the bullying is over. They are the defending state champions and if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, and by God they sucked it up and executed the gameplan to perfection.”
Statistically for the Falcons Abby Beeman had a game high 32 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Macie Miller was deadly from deep again scoring 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Makenna Douthitt scored 9 points, and pulled down 11 boards. Ashley Phillips scored 8 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Claire Howell added 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Fairmont Sr. was led by Abby Faulkner with 20 points, while Courtney Wilfong scored 13 points. Angela Delorenzo scored 8 points while her teammate Stephanie Vincent added 5 points to the total score. Keyanna Hilson and Zyaira Little both chipped in 2 points and Callie Boddy added 1 point.
Next up for the Frankfort Lady Falcons is a trip to Charleston to play in the eight team West Virginia state tournament. Frankfort earned the No. 5 seed and they will play the No. 4 seed Bridgeport Indians on Wednesday at 9:00 PM at the Charleston Civic Center.