Times West Virginian
SOUTH EUSOUTH EUCLID, Ohio CLID, Ohio —
Brendan Cooper made sure his homecoming to the Cleveland area was a memorable one here Tuesday night at the Murphy Gymnasium.
Fairmont State's 6-foot-7 senior forward scored the Falcons' first nine points of overtime himself to help his team open a seven-point lead over pesky Notre Dame College en route to a 100-94 victory.
“I felt good going into the overtime,” said Cooper, who also grabbed nine rebounds in the win and scored 12 of his 25 points in the extra session for the Falcons. “I wasn't tired at all. Coach has been telling me I need to step up and stay aggressive. That's all I was trying to do there.
“You know my family doesn't get to see me play that often so I just wanted to try to do what I could to get the win for us and play well for my family.”
Cooper's overtime heroics, however, wouldn't have been possible last night if it weren't for the play of the Falcons' Stevie Browning in the second half and Chase Morgan throughout the night.
Browning, the Falcons' 6-3 sophomore guard, was quiet in the first 20 minutes. He had just four points as Notre Dame ended the half on an 18-9 spurt in the last 9:25 to take a 33-30 lead into the break.
NDC then came out on fire to start the second half and quickly jumped on FSU building a 43-32 advantage with 16:20 remaining in regulation. That's when Browning and the rest of the Falcons went to work. Browning scored a career-high 31 points in the victory and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive glass. He tallied 20 of his 31 points in the final 20 minutes of regulation and helped Cooper and the rest of his team seal the deal by scoring seven more in the last 54 seconds of overtime.
“They went on a pretty big run to end the first half and start the second half,” said Browning. “We were able to turn it around by getting some stops and crashing the offensive glass and then converting on those chances. The offensive glass is really what got me going and into the game.
While Browning and Cooper came up huge for FSU late, it was Morgan who kept the Falcons close throughout the night. He finished with a season-high 24-point performance, 12 of which came in the first half and 12 of which came in the second half and overtime. He was 7-of-13 from long range for Fairmont in the victory.
“Chase really stepped up for us tonight and did what he does best which is knock down shots,” said Browning of Morgan's performance. “We knew he was rolling early so we made sure we were trying to get him the ball in situations in which he could score. He made us look good.”
A Browning 3-pointer and two Caleb Davis free throws gave FSU a 77-74 lead with 31 seconds remaining in regulation. NDC, however, tied the game and forced overtime thanks to a Tyree Gaither 3-pointer with 22 seconds left. Fairmont had the last possession in regulation but Thomas Wimbush's jumper wouldn't fall and the teams were forced to play an extra five minutes to decide the outcome.
The win improved Fairmont State, which is battling for a potential first-round bye for next week's MEC Tournament, to 18-9 overall and to 13-8 in the league. The Falcons are currently tied for fifth in the conference with Glenville State. The top four teams in the league earn opening-round tournament byes and berths in the quarterfinals which will be played in Charleston.
Notre Dame, which fell to 9-18 overall and to 7-14 in the MEC, was led by a trio of players who had big performances last night. Gaither led the way for NDC with 25 points and six assists. Notre Dame also got 24 points from Jarvis Huntley and 20 points and nine rebounds from Lawrence DeArmond.
FSU's men will be idle now until Saturday when they close out the regular season with a huge conference game at home at 4 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena against second-place Shepherd University.