By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State’s basketball team found itself up by just two points late in the game while freshman point guard Shammgod Wells found himself at just 1-for-14 shooting on the stat sheet.
Wells’ physical numbers didn’t matter, though.
He put his hands out, being sure not to foul Wheeling Jesuit’s Eric Siefert but instead applying pressure.
For the second time in the game, the pressure from Wells had forced Siefert to commit a five-second penalty, turning the ball over and igniting an eruption from the crowd at Joe Retton Arena Thursday night.
The Fighting Falcons would hold on for an 80-74 victory over their conference foes with Stevie Browning scoring 28 points and seemingly taking the game over in the final minutes.
But you could find those numbers on the stat sheet.
What you can’t find on the stat sheet is the heart and hustle of the Falcons’ team — Browning and Wells included.
“We’ve got some young guys that are just getting better,” head coach Jerrod Calhoun said of his team, which started three freshmen. “This is a huge win. We’re pretty much playing with all freshmen and sophomores.”
Wells, Thomas Wimbush and Trevor Andrews-Evans — all freshmen — combined for just 14 points between the three of them, but Calhoun commended their work off the ball and off the stat sheet.
“Shamm’s a pesty guy. That’s what we need,” Calhoun said of the play of his freshman point guard.
The second-year head coach then likened Wells’ play to that of a fan-favorite during his time at West Virginia University, Cam Thoroghman.
“He was a fan-favorite for one reason: his hustle,” Calhoun said. “He couldn’t jump over a board but the biggest applause at the (WVU) Coliseum was when he ran down balls or got a tough rebound.
“Tonight, Shamm runs two balls down from behind. He could’ve given up on the play. but he didn’t. And those were game-winning plays for us.”
The ovation from the crowd may not have been as loud as they were at the WVU Coliseum, but Wells and the Falcons were able to stir up the fans enough to make the final moments of the game as loud as they’ve been all season.
“It’s just a thing with me. I have a certain pride to me that I don’t want to let anyone get anything easy,” Wells said. “If it comes time to get a stop, I want it to be me who gets that stop so my teammates see that I’m trying to lead and make us better instead of just letting the person bring the ball up and make a pass, but I want the others to just feed off my defensive intensity.”
Wells, who never hung his head during the game, said that when he has an off game shooting, he has to find the next best thing.
“Any time the ball’s not going in the rim, you just got to find anything else to do,” Wells said. “I couldn’t make a layup. Every time I put the ball up it’d go in and out. But it’s just giving the effort to make a defensive stop or to help the team out. If I can’t score then I have to find other things to do. I have to do something to where I’m into the game.”
Generally when a player is having a rough night shooting, the coach pulls the plug at some point. But Calhoun never gave up on Wells, saying that his point guard gave the team a solid 34 minutes of playing time.
“Shammgod Wells is a prime example of a kid who just came in and is just getting better and better,” Calhoun said. “Over the course of the year, it’s going to be fun to see him by February and March.”
Calhoun also noted the play of others like Wimbush, Andrews-Evans, Otar Pkhakdze and Tommy Scales, speaking not only to the youth of this team but to the depth.
The head coach was especially pleased with Scales, who has been battling all season to get on the court.
“Tommy played great. Talk about a great kid,” Calhoun said of the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward. “He’s been dealt some adversity throughout the year. He’s kept his faith. He had a big game tonight with offensive rebounds. Couldn’t be happier for Tommy Scales.”
Scales finished with nine points and seven boards.
Even if the players themselves don’t find their numbers going up after a hard-fought game like this, the playing time they’re getting can’t be matched or taken for granted, Calhoun said.
“I think it’s a huge confidence builder,” he said of the game. “Any time you can get that game experience it’ll help you down the road. It was a team win tonight. Everybody stepped up.”
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.