By Sean McNamara, For Lootpress
FAIRMONT – With a Class AAA state championship game rematch with Shady Spring on the horizon Saturday, there was a possibility that Tuesday’s home game against the Grafton Bearcats could have been a trap game for the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears.
After an 84-52 victory, FSHS coach David Retton said that his team is aware of what’s around the corner, but they were not about to look past their Big 10 foes from Grafton.
“It’s a challenge if you make it a challenge,” Retton said. “Our philosophy is that we want to improve tonight. We want to play really good basketball, and I thought we did that tonight.”
The Polar Bears shot 35-of-58 from the floor with 20 assists on their made baskets, a 26-16 advantage on the glass and an 18-7 edge in turnovers forced.
Key in the victory Tuesday was the play of first-team All-State junior Zycheus Dobbs who scored 25 points to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals in the win.
“He’s so strong in his upper body and his ability to get to the basket and his ability to finish. He makes plays,” FSHS coach David Retton said of Dobbs. “He sees and does what is needed. He leads our team and does a tremendous job.
“He guards the best offensive guy, and he’s one of the top players offensively in the state. That takes a lot to want to do that and to work at it.”
Joining Dobbs in double figures for the Polar Bears were DeSean Goode with 19 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals as well as Andre Grant who scored 18 points with a game-high four steals.
While the trio of Polar Bears filled the stat sheet for the home team, so, too, did Grafton senior JT Veltri who scored 25 points along with a game-high nine rebounds for the Bearcats.
“JT’s very important,” Grafton coach Michael Johnson said. “We graduated a really good senior class last year, but this is JT’s third year starting for us. He’s been in the state tournament and played in big games. We’ve kind of relied on him to carry us at times, and I thought he did that tonight.”
Fairmont Senior came out of the gates red hot Tuesday, scoring the first 13 points of the game in the first three minutes, forcing Johnson to call two timeouts and get his team into the game.
The Bearcats responded and closed the period on a 13-9 run to close the first quarter with nine points from Veltri helping the visitors end the second trailing 22-13.
“We told them they just needed to relax and slow down,” Johnson said. “Fairmont’s very good. They’re very well coached, very skilled and very athletic. We knew that we couldn’t allow the game to get up and down. I thought that once we settled in, we were able to just gradually work our way back into it.”
The nine-point first-quarter deficit was cut to six for much of the second quarter, with Fairmont Senior leading, 31-25, midway through the period.
From there, the Polar Bears began to run away with it, closing the half on an 8-2 run thanks to 17 first-half points from Dobbs and nine first-half points from Grant, giving FSHS a 39-27 lead at the break.
“We weren’t getting enough pressure on the ball and they were running their offense,” Retton said of his team’s play between the first and second quarters. “It’s A-B-C-D sometimes – a pattern – and we weren’t taking them out of that. Our movement was a little stagnant. In the third quarter, our movement was really good and we took them out of what they wanted to do.”
That third quarter saw FSHS continue to pull away with 10 third-quarter points from Goode helping the Polar Bears build the advantage to 60-35 heading into the fourth.
Fairmont Senior utilized its bench in closing things out in the final eight minutes, ultimately cruising to the 84-52 win.
With a game Thursday at home against Lincoln preceding the state championship game rematch at Shady Spring, the possibility of overlooking the Bearcats existed for Fairmont Senior, but Retton and his staff were pleased with their team’s ability to stay in the moment.
In the loss, the Bearcats converted on 22-of-44 field goal attempts with 10 points from Jacob Maier complementing Veltri’s 25.
Fairmont Senior 84 Grafton 52
Fairmont Senior (12-0)
Zycheus Dobbs 9 7-8 25, DeSean Goode 9 1-1 19, Andre Grant 8 2-4 18, Connor Gower 3 1-2 7, Julz Bulter 1 0-0 3, Latique Williams 1 1-2 3, Nathan Kidd 1 0-0 2, Darrell Claybrook 1 0-0 2, Naelyn Chandra 1 0-0 2, Cole Gilmore 0 1-2 1.
JT Veltri 10 1-4 25, Jacob Maier 4 2-2 10, Cole Mooney 2 1-2 5, Kaden Keener 1 0-0 3, Mason Dunham 1 0-0 3, Isaiah Vanscoy 1 0-0 2, Dillan America 1 0-0 2, Garret Hutson 1 0-0 2.
3-Pointers: FS 1 (Butler) GRA 5 (Veltri 4, Keener, Dunham).