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Carter Zuliani scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers in their season debut against Fairmont Senior Wednesday night. The Bucs dropped a 70-48 decision. (Bobbie Hatcher/My Buckhannon).

Basketball Bucs battle No. 1 Fairmont Senior for a half, but fade late in 70-48 setback

TENNERTON – For one half, the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers played the top team in Class AAA in Fairmont Senior on even terms, but they faded in the second half and dropped a 70-48 decision in their 2023 debut Wednesday night.

B-U led 14-12 after one quarter and trailed by just six at the half at 25-19, but couldn’t keep up with the No. 1 Polar Bears getting outscored by a 27-9 margin in the third quarter as Fairmont Senior switched from a man to a zone defense that gave the Bucs fits.

“We felt like we are strong and physical at the rim, and that led us to taking that early lead,” remarked Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Jason Westfall. “Fairmont Senior figured out that they couldn’t guard us and went to a zone. That said, we have to settle in better in our zone offense. We have to clean up some things there. We anticipated Fairmont Senior going zone and we practiced against it, I just don’t feel that we were as sharp in our zone offense we questioned at times where we were needed to be. We weren’t certain on what we were seeing. That falls on me to help them out and put them in better positions. Fairmont Senior is a championship team with a great coach in Dave Retton and they are going to make adjustments, and I feel like that is where we lost our edge.”

The setback wasted an impressive performance by junior forward Carter Zuliani who had a double-double with 22 points (10-for-16 from the floor) and 14 rebounds as he was the only B-U player to reach double digits in scoring.

“Carter handled his business inside but we have to have other people step up,” noted Westfall.

B-U was down early 7-4 but went on a 6-0 run getting three straight baskets from Malaki Williams giving the Bucs a 10-7 lead. Williams scored all eight of his points in the first quarter.

After the Polar Bears scored the next five for a 12-10 lead, Zuliani dropped in two baskets underneath to close out the opening quarter treating the Bucs to a 14-12 advantage.

Fairmont Senior went on a 5-0 run to start the second quarter for a 17-14 advantage and the Bucs never held the lead again.

They still kept it close as down 21-16, Zuliani scored on a putback and Nathaniel Ringer flipped in a free throw bringing the Bucs to within two, at 21-19.

The Polar Bears ended the half with two straight baskets for a 25-19 lead at the intermission.

Things with south for the Bucs in the that third quarter as Fairmont Senior scored at will putting up their 27 points.

Jaden Westfall started the third quarter with a short jumper making it 25-21, but the Polar Bears dominated the rest of the quarter going on a 13-3 run for a 38-24 lead with 4:28 remaining in the quarter.

With B-U down 39-28, Fairmont Senior closed out the third quarter with 13 unanswered points for a 52-28 advantage.

The closest the Bucs could get in the final quarter was 20 points at 68-48, on an old-fashioned three-point play by Jevon Westfall, with 1:19 remaining.

“I told our guys that we have to be mindful that we can compete with them for a quarter but then what,” stated coach Westfall. “We have to play four quarters and we didn’t do that. We missed some easy shots, they get some easy shots and we don’t pull down some rebounds and that adds up against a good team to a 22-point loss.”

Fairmont Senior improved to 3-0 on the season, after beating Lewis County (82-40) and Chapmanville (70-45).

They were led by Zycheus Dobbs, who just missed out on a double-double, with a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds. Andre Grant added 14 points and Julz Butler put in 11 for the Polar Bears.

The Polar Bears were very efficient with their ball handling, committing just six turnovers.

Trailing Zuliani in the scoring column was Williams with his eight points while Jaden Westfall added seven.

“I am glad we started our season with a great team like Fairmont Senior because it let’s us know who we really are” said Westfall. “I am not ashamed of the loss, it was a learning opportunity. I anticipate us being better in the next game.”

The Bucs (0-1) will have little time to dwell on the Fairmont Senior loss as they host Preston Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“That is the great thing about basketball is that there is another game right around the corner,” concluded Westfall. “You can’t to get to low with a loss or too high with a win. This didn’t ruin our season. We have 21 more games to go. We have a lot left in the tank. We just can’t get down ourselves. We have to clean it up and keep working on the good stuff that happened tonight.”

The boxscore:

Fairmont Senior 12  13  27  18 – 70

Buckhannon-Upshur 14  5  9  20 – 48

Fairmont Senior 70

Zycheus Dobbs 9-18 6-10 24; Andre Grant 4-11 5-6 14; Julz Butler 4-7 1-2 11; Darrell Claybrook 4-7 1-1 9; Tre Cumberledge 4-6 0-0 9; Hudson Brand 1-1 0-0 2; Damani Johnson 0 1-2 1; Quelin Barker 0-2 0-0 0; Ron Chaney-Carter 0-1 0-0 0; Chris Wilson 0-0 0-0 0; Navaughn Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 14-21 70.

Buckhannon-Upshur 48

Carter Zuliani 10-16 2-5 22; Malaki Williams 4-5 0-2 8; Jaden Westfall 3-6 1-4 7; Jevon Westfall 2-4 1-1 5; Landon Marple 1-4 0-0 3; Jerin Westfall 1-6 0-0 2; Nathaniel Ringer 0-3 1-2 1; Bryson Johnston 0-5 0-0 0; Ian Strader 0-4 0-0 0; Luke Yardley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 5-14 48

Three-point field goals – Fairmont Senior: Butler 2-5; Cumberledge 1-2; Grant 1-3; Claybrook 0-3; Dobbs 0-2; Barker 0-1. Totals 4-16; Buckhannon-Upshur: Marple 1-3; Jerin Westfall 0-5; Strader 0-2; Ringer 0-1; Yardley 0-1. Totals 1-12.

Rebounds – Fairmont Senior: Dobbs 9; Butler 4;  Claybrook 4; Chaney-Carter 3; Cumberledge 3; Barker 2; deadball 2; Grant 1; Johnson 1; team 1. Totals 30; Buckhannon-Upshur: Zuliani 14; Jaden Westfall 8; team 7; Williams 6; Strader 3; deadball 3; Johnston 2; Ringer 2; Jerin Westfall 1; Jevon Westfall 1. Totals 48.

Assists – Fairmont Senior: Dobbs 8; Cumberledge 3; Grant 2; Carter 1; Claybrook 1; Wilson 1. Totals 16; Buckhannon-Upshur: Jaden Westfall 4; Johnston 3; Jerin Westfall 2; Strader 1. Totals 10.

Steals – Fairmont Senior: Claybrook 4; Cumberledge 4; Butler 2;  Dobbs 2; Grant 1. Totals 13; Buckhannon-Upshur: Johnston 1; Marple 1; Ringer 1; Yardley 1. Totals 4.

Blocked shots – Fairmont Senior: Butler 1; Dobbs 1. Totals 2; Buckhannon-Upshur: Jaden Westfall 2. Totals 2.

Turnovers – Fairmont Senior: 6; Buckhannon-Upshur: 18.

Personal fouls – Fairmont Senior: 17; Buckhannon-Upshur: 17.

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