MORGANTOWN — As did Icarus, the Morgantown High boys’ basketball team flew too close to the sun Dec. 21.
The Mohigans fell, 56-45, to defending two-time Class AA state champion Fairmont Senior, at the Rowdy Center, on the opening day of the American Homes Holiday Classic.
The Mohigans jumped out to an early lead but couldn’t sustain the momentum past the third quarter, as the Polar Bears turned a Taevon Horton spark into a raging wildfire.
“You never like to lose, and I’m the sorest loser there is,” MHS head coach Dave Tallman said. “But I think we got better tonight. I think we’re playing better.”
Tallman said he knew his opponent would provide a tough game, and despite the loss, he believes his players rose to the occasion as best as they could.
“We challenged ourselves against one of the best teams in the state,” Tallman said. “We’re not there yet, but I think we saw glimpses of it tonight.”
MHS jumped out to an 8-0 run to open the contest and finished the first half strong, holding a 24-20 advantage at the halfway point.
For Fairmont Senior head coach David Retton, his team’s performance early on was not up to his expectations.
“We just started the game slow. Our knees weren’t bent on defense, the shot selection was poor, our movement was poor,” Retton said. “I just didn’t like our body language.”
The halftime deficit didn’t sit well with the Polar Bears, though, and they were determined to come out and make a statement.
The Polar Bears outscored MHS, 15-9, in the third stanza on the back of two clutch Horton
3-pointers. Turnovers plagued MHS throughout the third, and a Horton free throw following a foul in transition tied the game at 33, with 1:05 left in the quarter.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball when teams press us,” Tallman said. “They got their hands on us. They were running and jumping us, and we didn’t do a very good job of handling that.”
A pair of free throws from Dasilas Jones in the final minute of the third gave the Polar Bears a 35-33 lead, and a Horton 3 with 6:52 in the fourth extended the Fairmont advantage to five. From there, Retton’s squad never looked back, scoring 21 points in the final period to secure a victory.
“The second half, I think our guys made tremendous adjustments, number one with attitudes. I think the attitudes had a big bearing on what our behaviors were,” Retton said.
“We played better out of our stance. We were better on the board. We played better defensively. What we didn’t do in the first half and we did do in the second, and I’m proud of our team.”
Tallman gave credit where credit was due, and he recognized the tenacity and skill Fairmont Senior brought to the floor.
“Our guys are fighters. I give their kids credit. They made a lot of tough shots tonight,” Tallman said.
“Great players do that. They stepped and made shots when they needed to.”
The loss drops the Mohigans to 3-2.
They take the court again Dec. 22 against the Shroder Paidea (Cincinnati) Jaguars. Tip-off is 6 p.m.