May 25, 2022

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Challenging Sectional Finals in store for Huskies, Bears | High School Sports

FAIRMONT — The North Marion Huskies and Fairmont Senior Polar Bears will both be pitted against familiar foes in each team’s respective Sectional Championship on Friday.

Coming off a blowout win over Weir, North Marion will face the top seed in Region One, Section One — the Wheeling Central Catholic Maroon Knights.

The Bears — they themselves the top seed in Region Two, Section One — are coming off a 50-37 win over East Fairmont, and will face the No. 2 seed in their section, the Grafton Bearcats.

Both opponents have shared a court in the regular season. Fairmont Senior is 1-1 in two previous meetings with the Bearcats. The Huskies are 0-2 against the Knights, with one of the losses decided at the buzzer, 55-54, and the other a game that Wheeling Central Catholic ran away with, 85-64.

Even in the latter game, North kept things tight until halftime, down just 39-35 at the end of two quarters. But an onslaught of 3-pointers in that game made keeping up extremely difficult.

“The last meeting was a tough one,” North Marion head coach Steven Harbert said. “They shot somewhere around 60% from the 3-point line. They shot the ball really well, and we felt like we were out guarding them, and they just made tough shots. They beat us, and I think you shoot that well from the 3-point line and you’re probably going to beat anybody when you hit as many 3-point shots as they did. That’s got to be an emphasis there — understand our assignments, understand who we’re guarding and how we’re guarding those guys.”

The long-ball will be a difference-maker on Friday, as Wheeling Central Catholic boasts great guard-play across their roster. All-American Ryan Reasbeck led all scorers with 25 points in their most recent meeting, and while the Huskies are paying attention to the Knights’ star guard, they have plenty more to prepare for as well.

“It’s not just [Reasbeck], but he is a key part to them,” Harbert said. “Six-foot-2, shoots the ball extremely well, and has great range.

“Obviously, he will be a collegiate player, but they also have number 12, [Quinton] Burlenski, he has really come along. He had 24 against us last time, he’s only getting better and better. And the guy they really run offense through, that controls their offense, is [Leyton] Toepfer, a sophomore. He’s also a deep threat, but he does a good job of probing the defense, getting inside and kicking out to shooters to make those step-in 3’s. But obviously, a big focus, a lot of things are ran for and through Reasbeck.”

The top-seeded Knights, 18-3 on the year after a 84-60 drubbing over Oak Glen, certainly pose a challenge. But the Huskies were one shot away from downing Wheeling Central Catholic back in December, and with a team riding momentum of their own after a 80-53 win over Weir, it might be a challenge North is up for.

“Keys to the game for us is defending the 3-point shot while keeping guys in front of us,” Harbert said. “Not allowing easy drives. They do a good job of driving and kicking for an easy step-in 3, and they’ll make those.

“The other thing is rebounding the basketball. We’ve done a better job of it as the season’s wore on. Just making sure we play at the tempo we want to play at. Play quick when we can. When we slow it down and execute offense, we’ve got to be able to do that. And not turning the ball over. Rebounding, defending the perimeter, not turning the ball over, those are the three keys.”

North will hit the road for a 7 p.m. tip-off against the Knights. The game will determine who the two teams face in the upcoming Regional round.

“Our guys are excited to get the opportunity to get two more games in, and we’re going to take it one step at a time,” Harbert said.

For Fairmont Senior, they enter Friday with a chance to exercise some demons, and knock off a team that handed them one of their three losses this season. After besting the Bearcats 74-63 on Jan. 26, Grafton’s Kaden Delaney hit a game-winning jumper from the left short-corner to win the rematch on Feb. 16, 53-52.

Grafton has rounded into form as of late, posting a 9-1 record since the start of February to rest at 17-6 going into Friday. A 68-48 triumph over Notre Dame — another team that dealt Fairmont Senior a loss this season — has the Bearcats rolling into the Sectional Championship.

“We think we match up fairly well with [Fairmont Senior],” Grafton head coach Michael Johnson said after his team’s win over Notre Dame. “We played here and it was a tight game and went over there and won. We don’t expect anything different.”

Ryan Maier had 19 against the Irish, and the sharpshooting guard will surely be on the scouting report for Friday. Kaden Delaney and Justin Spiker will also provide scoring for the Bearcats, who focus on cultivating a well-rounded attack.

“That’s important to us,” Grafton head coach Michael Johnson said after their Feb. 16 win against the Bears. “We’ve got guys that can score the basketball in different capacities, in different ways.”

For Fairmont Senior, a significant factor might be Zycheus Dobbs’ ailing ankles. The Polar Bears guard has been nursing injuries to both ankles for months now, but has looked better and better leading up to the playoffs. A 20-point, 11-rebound performance against East Fairmont followed a 13-point, 12-assist showing in the regular season finale against Charleston Catholic.

Fairmont Senior’s ability to find good shots within their offense from the get-go could differentiate this game from the two team’s meeting in February, as a rough first half set the Bears behind the eight-ball previously.

“They shot the ball really well,” Fairmont Senior head coach David Retton said after the Bears’ loss to Grafton. “And going into halftime we were 1-11 from 3. We settled for shots that weren’t good shots. We needed to be more patient. Our ball movement wasn’t where we needed it to be. Second half we flipped it, we really flipped it, got back.”

Whether the Bears play like their first or second-half counterparts will go a long way to deciding the Region Two Section One champions Friday. Fairmont Senior hosts Grafton at 7 p.m.