Times West Virginian
Concord University held off a late surge by Fairmont State to record a hard-fought 67-64 Mountain East Conference victory over the Lady Falcons here Saturday afternoon in the King Coal Classic at the Willie Akers Arena.
The Lady Mountain Lions led nearly the entire game before a late 8-0 run by Fairmont gave the Lady Falcons a short-lived 63-61 advantage with just 57 seconds remaining. FSU, however, couldn't maintain the lead as CU's Sissy Wagner connected on four straight free throws during a 28-second span to give her team the lead for good at 65-63 with 24 seconds left to play.
On the other end, Concord's Andrea Bertrand fouled FSU's Emily Puskarich with 16 seconds left. Puskarich sank the first free throw, but missed the second and the rebound was controlled by Concord's Jacqueline Kestner, who got the ball into the hands of Wagner, who was fouled with five seconds remaining and again made both free throws to give CU a 67-64 lead.
Fairmont had a final chance to tie the contest, but Bertrand blocked Hallie Gunnoe's 3-point attempt as time ran out.
With the loss Fairmont State fell to 5-5 overall and to 3-4 in the MEC. Concord, which halted a two-game losing streak with the victory, improved to 5-6 overall and to 3-5 in the league.
“Getting off to a good start was a big key for us,” said veteran Concord coach Kenny Osborne. “One of the reasons for our good opening half was the play of Jacqueline Kestner who hit some big shots for us. Fairmont did a good job of taking Bertrand away from us, so she stepped up big.”
Kestner finished with a game-high 20 points, 14 of which came in the opening 20 minutes. She also grabbed nine rebounds. Wagner chipped in 16 points, eight of which came at the free throw line in the second half. Bertrand, who came into the contest among the league leaders in scoring with a 19.5 average, was held to 11 points.
The Lady Falcons placed four players in double figures in the scoring column in the loss, but leading scorer Makenzie White wasn't one of them. White, who played just 14 minutes Saturday and scored a mere two points, battled foul trouble the entire game. She picked up her second foul just over four minutes into the contest and fouled out with 10:17 left to play.
Junior center Hailey Garrett led FSU with 15 points and nine rebounds. Emily Lohr added 14 points, Puskarich chipped in 13 off of the bench and Brianna Innocent contributed 10 points and a game-high 10 boards.
Trailing 61-55 Fairmont's Puskarich, in only her third game of her FSU career since transferring from Robert Morris at the semester break, reeled off eight straight points herself to give the Lady Falcons their only lead of the game at 63-61 with 1:04 remaining. Down the stretch, though, CU outscored Fairmont 6-1 to record the win.
“Puskarich came up big for them late,” said Osborne. “She got six of those points on that 8-0 run on a pair of 3-pointers.
“Sissy, though, came through for us in the end. She put us on her back and made six straight at the foul line in the last minute to get us the win.”
FSU head coach Steve McDonald was unavailable for comment.
The Lady Falcons will attempt to bounce back Monday evening when they return to the Joe Retton Arena to host UVA-Wise in the first game of a Mountain East Conference doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. The FSU men will face UVA-Wise at 7:30 p.m.