By Rich Stevens
Fairmont Senior boys basketball coach Dave Retton is the polar opposite of the school’s last coach to win a state championship.
That would be Frank “Babe” Stingo, whose outspoken personality and lack of filter has provided more than enough reading material.
They now have a common bond – a title.
The duo of senior Darhius Nunn and freshman Zyon Dobbs combined for 28 points and held Poca juniors Elijah Cuffee and Luke Frampton to 25 percent shooting to lead third-seeded Fairmont Senior to a resounding 55-37 victory over the No. 1 Dots (25-3) in the state high school tournament Class AA finals on Saturday.
“These guys were tremendous on defense,” said Retton, the son of legendary former Fairmont State coach Joe Retton. “We didn’t hold the ball against Poca. To hold them to 37 points, these guys got the job done. All of them. Our bench, starters …”
Although the game began similarly to last year’s championship meeting won by Poca, Fairmont Senior didn’t stumble this time.
In 2015, Poca trailed by 15 after the first quarter, 10 at halftime, and four after three quarters before completing the comeback in the final period.
On Saturday, Fairmont Senior (23-5) led by seven after one, but ascended to a 12-point edge at the half and a 16-point lead after three. The advantage ballooned to 22 with 3:26 left in the third.
The Polar Bears turned the tables on the ball-sharing Dots, who had 22 assists in the semifinals against Wyoming East. Senior had 17 assists to just nine for Poca to give Retton his first championship after becoming head coach in 1997 when Fairmont Senior was a member of Class AAA.
Conversely, this was Poca’s first loss to a West Virginia high school since it was the No. 2 seed in 2014 and lost to No. 3 Bluefield in the state semifinals – a span of 51 games.
“I thought Fairmont played really, really well,” Poca coach Allen Osborne said. “They defended us extremely well.”
Nunn and Dobbs were the key elements to Fairmont Senior’s defense, which wasn’t the same one that allowed Poca to hit 17-of-37 shots in last year’s title game.
The Dots shot 12-of-52 on Saturday and 5-of-21 from 3-point range. Frampton and Kaden Meeks were a combined 0-of-9 from long range and Frampton didn’t score in the second half after tallying six points the first 16 minutes.
“He’s (Dobbs) really athletic,” Cuffee said. “He anticipates really well. He did a really good job on both of us, bothered us when we tried to shoot.”
Cuffee had 20 points and 11 rebounds, but the Dots were never really in the game after Fairmont took a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter.
In fact, a Brennan Moorehead 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer gave Fairmont a 28-16 lead and the advantage never slipped below 10 again.
In an attempt to slow Senior, Poca went to a zone defense on occasion, a rarity for Osborne.
“Kaden picked up his second foul and playing it really helped us early in the game,” he said. “The 3 at the end of the half hurt us. That was my fault, we should’ve been in man. They were quick, getting in the lane with the dribble, but it all boils down to us not making shots.”
Nunn had 18 points and 10 assists, bringing his three-game assist total at the state tournament to 21.
Moorehead had 13 points and seven rebounds and Dante Stills had 11 of Fairmont’s 32 boards. The Polar Bears scored 12 points off eight Poca turnovers.