CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Though the sun was out Friday afternoon and any remaining ice in the Charleston area surely started to melt, these Polar Bears are still afloat.
Fairmont Senior built a 12-point halftime lead, weathered a Bridgeport comeback in the third and fourth quarters and held on to beat the Indians 65-58 Friday afternoon at the Civic Center.
The win sends the No. 2-seeded Polar Bears into the Class AA state championship game at 2:30 p.m. today against No. 1 Bluefield.
The Polar Bears (21-6), who defeated Bridgeport in all three meetings between the schools this season, outscored the Indians 22-10 in the second quarter behind a barrage of baskets from seniors Travon Horton and Shaquille Washington and junior Jarin Hilson, giving Fairmont Senior a 39-27 halftime lead.
Bridgeport made its move in the third quarter as Hilson picked up three quick fouls to start the period and watched from the bench as the Indians chipped away at what was once a 16-point lead.
Bridgeport got within two points at 55-53 on a Jordan Haywood basket late in the fourth quarter but could not get any closer as the Polar Bears kept coming up with big plays down the stretch. Horton grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and hit a quick putback to give Fairmont Senior a 60-56 lead with one minute to play, then grabbed another offensive board in the closing seconds off another missed free throw to put the game out of Bridgeport's reach.
"They're athletes," Indians coach Gene Randolph said of the Polar Bears. "Under normal circumstances we probably get out of there with those [rebounds], but to their credit they came away with them."
Fairmont Senior coach David Retton said when Horton got his hands on the ball he could sense his team had done enough to advance to play for a state title.
"Can't say enough about Travon Horton and the job he did on those rebounds," Retton said. "Those rebounds, I thought they were backbreakers for Bridgeport. They gave us life. We go to the free-throw line and hit free throws. We got a conversion on them and that put the game away."
Horton and Hilson each finished with a game-high 19 points while Washington tallied 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to put the Polar Bears back in a state championship game for the first time since a loss in the 1998 Class AAA final against Woodrow Wilson. Horton and Washington combined for eight offensive rebounds while Fairmont Senior was able to beat the Bridgeport defense in the paint going to the basket.
"We definitely wanted to find [Washington] in the post because he was working so hard on [Bridgeport forward] Ryan Sprouse," Hilson said. "He was posting so hard. Every timeout we would stress feeding Quille because he was finishing, but he would also kick out when they would double."
Horton, Hilson and Washington weren't having all the fun for the Polar Bears. Junior Austin Norman only managed three points in 31 minutes but pulled down seven rebounds and proved to be a nice complement to Washington's physical presence in the paint.