By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Even though he may not readily admit it, Monday evening’s 64-58 Fairmont State victory over visiting Wheeling Jesuit at the Joe Retton Arena was a little more special than usual for Lady Falcons’ coach Steve McDonald.
The victory gave McDonald win No. 250 in his career as the Lady Falcons’ head coach.
“I’m not going to say too much about coaching milestones,” McDonald said with a smile. “Coaches get wins because we have great players. That’s always the case.”
Nevertheless, the victory helped secure McDonald’s spot as the winningest coach in FSU women’s basketball history (250-122) and allowed the Lady Falcons to remain in second place in the 15-team West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. Fairmont State is now 14-7 overall and 12-4 in the league.
Kaitlin Snyder’s 18 first-half points helped FSU open a 10-point, 35-25, lead at the break. In the second half, though, Snyder was held without a field goal and finished with 20 points.
With Snyder cooling off, Wheeling, led by Taneka Lewis and Kelsey Pacholke, heated up. The Lady Cardinals trimmed FSU’s 10-point halftime lead to two twice around the 10-minute mark but could never take the lead.
In the final minute Wheeling trailed by three at 59-56 when Fairmont’s Briana Welch made the biggest field goal of the game on a power layup off a feed from Emily Lohr with 23 seconds left and was fouled. She made the free throw to make it 62-56.
“I curled underneath the basket because I thought Emily was going to shoot it,” said Welch, who scored all 11 of her points in the final half. “When she started to drive my man stepped off and tried to help and I was wide open. She bounce passed it to me, my man flew over me and I just went up strong and laid it in. She kind of table topped me on the shot, but I just wanted to make sure I made it and then also got the foul call. That was a big play for us.”
Fairmont’s Hailey Garrett, who finished with her 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds, agreed.
“That was definitely a big bucket for us,” Garrett said. “I was really happy for Bri because she came up big for us in the second half. Emily did a good job of finding her on that play and she did a great job of finishing and then hitting the free throw to give some breathing room.”
Fairmont’s Tiffany Nicholson joined Snyder, Garrett and Welch in double figures with 10 points, while Lohr added eight points and eight rebounds.
Wheeling Jesuit, which fell to 6-14 overall and to 3-13 in the WVIAC, was led by Lewis’ 18 points — 13 of which came in the final half.
“She really hurt us driving the basketball in the second half,” McDonald said. “She’s a good player. When the other teams spread the floor out and says try to stop her it’s difficult. On the other hand, there were some things we should’ve been doing that we weren’t doing defensively to stop that. Hopefully if that happens again against them or some other team, we’ll do a little better job of stopping those drives.”
Pacholke added 14 points for the Lady Cardinals, while Jamie Sobczak chipped in five points and collected a game-high 15 rebounds.
Fairmont State will be idle until Saturday when it visits Institute for a 5:30 p.m. game with West Virginia State. FSU toppled State, 66-50, on Jan. 14 in Fairmont.