By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Even though it's only his second season as a head coach Fairmont State's Jerrod Calhoun might just be facing the toughest task he'll ever face on the sidelines this season with the Falcons.
With three starters sidelined due to injuries, Calhoun and his coaching staff have been dealt a playing hand which is limited to say the least. Yet still, the Falcons' second-year boss and his make-shift lineup have found ways to get it done.
Saturday evening FSU erased a five-point deficit in the final 5:34 keyed by a crucial 11-0 run during a span of just 2:47 to record a 71-66 victory over Concord University at the Joe Retton Arena.
The win, Fairmont's fifth in its last six games, improved the Falcons to 10-3 overall and to 5-2 in the Mountain East Conference, where they currently sit in third place in the 12-team league standings.
“The thing we learned tonight is we're a very young basketball team which is still learning and a bit immature at times, but we're finding ways to win and right now that's the most important thing,” said Calhoun, who struggled late in the game to keep his voice. “I wasn't real happy with the way we played tonight. Let's face it. We did a lot of dumb stuff that we have to get corrected, but we've got three starters out, we won tonight and we're 10-3. We'll hang our hat on that, but we've got to get better tomorrow to get ready for Monday.”
Like his team, Calhoun was relentless at times Saturday evening on the sidelines barking out orders to his players on every single possession.
“One thing I've learned with these young guys is you've got to stay hard on them,” said Calhoun. “We can't let them feel comfortable, not even in practice. We have to coach them every play.
“Tonight I probably looked like an absolute idiot at times on the sidelines. I was begging guys to get in a stance and begging guys to run back. That's stuff we have to get corrected, but you know tonight I felt like we had some guys step up. Thomas (Wimbush) was relentless. He goes to the glass hard. We're leading this league in rebounding. We're not the best team right now, but we're finding a way because we're rebounding and out-toughing people. We've got to continue to do that.”
Wimbush, Fairmont's talented redshirt freshman forward, led the Falcons with 23 points and eight rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass. Stevie Browning added 17 points, Chase Morgan chipped in 13 points and Shammgod Wells contributed 11 points and a game-high eight assists.
Those four players helped key the game-changing 11-0 spurt which saw Fairmont erase a 59-54 deficit and open a 65-59 lead it never relinquished.
“We're finding ways to come together and fight through the adversity we've faced this year,” said Wimbush. “When times are hard we just look to each other and come together and play basketball the way we're asked to play.”
Wells, who had two points and two huge assists during Fairmont's late-game surge, agrees.
“We've learned from practice that each and every day is a war for us and we've got to fight through it,” said Wells. “Coach does get on us pretty hard, but that's a great thing because that just means that he cares. He wants to see us play to our full potential. He knows what kind of team we can be.
“When he yells it's because we're making mistakes or doing something wrong and we need to correct it. None of us take that personally. We just listen to what he's saying and do what we're told.”
Trailing 66-62 with 39 seconds remaining Concord standout guard Mike Boyd slipped and fell near mid-court and lost control of the basketball. Browning was there for the quick steal, cruised to the other end and made a layup despite being intentionally fouled by the Mountain Lions' Grant Dickinson. Browning, who is normally strong at the foul line, missed both free throws and FSU ended up turning the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play but that play and steal by Browning helped seal the win for the Falcons.
“I knew the shot clock was winding down and he was going to make a move and a play, but I saw his feet slip and he went down,” said Browning. “The ball was just lying there. It was like someone handed it to me. I made the layup, but I really wish I had made the free throws. That bothers me. I'd love to have those back.
“Tonight certainly wasn't a pretty one for us, but we're a resilient team and we're finding ways to get it done. It's what's instilled in us each and every day.”
Concord, which lost for the sixth straight time after starting the season 5-3, fell to 5-9 overall and to 2-6 in the league. The Mountain Lions were led by Cam Shannon's 18 points and Boyd's 14.
FSU will be back in action Monday evening when it hosts UVA-Wise at 7:30 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena.