Times West Virginian
Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons retained the top spot in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings with a thrilling 57-54 road win here Saturday afternoon over Concord University at the Carter Center.
Despite scoring just two points in the game’s final four minutes, the Lady Falcons were able to hold off Concord and get the victory which improved them to 9-3 overall and to 7-1 in the league.
The Lady Mountain Lions, on the other hand, fell to 4-10 overall and to 3-5 in conference play.
Fairmont rallied from a six-point deficit early in the second half and held a 55-50 advantage with 4:10 left to play. That, however, is when FSU’s offense became nonexistent. The Lady Falcons would not score again until just two-tenths of a second remained when senior point guard Kaitlin Snyder drained a pair of free throws after Concord head coach Kenny Osborne was whistled for a technical foul.
The Lady Mountain Lions whittled FSU’s 55-50 lead down to one on a follow up basket by Leslie Mack with 3:10 remaining and a pair of free throws by Amanda Smith with 1:21 left to play.
Concord then had possession trailing 55-54 with 14 seconds left to play. On the possession, Fairmont double-teamed Concord’s Smith on the wing forcing the Lady Mountain Lions to call a timeout with just 3.1 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Concord got the ball into Mack but her wild four-foot bank shot was off the mark and Fairmont’s Briana Welch controlled the rebound and was tied up. Possession went to FSU and it was then that Osborne was whistled for a technical foul, sending Snyder to the foul line to seal the victory for Fairmont. The Lady Falcons then inbounded the ball to midcourt where Tiffany Nicholson touched it and the final horn sounded.
“The key for us today was defense,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald, who watched his team win its fourth game in a row and its eighth in its last nine outings. “When you can hold a well-coached team like Concord to 23 points in the second half and 24 percent shooting from the field in the second half then you have really played some good defense. I told the team after the game I thought our ability to defend in the last four or five minutes of the game was the difference in this one.
“We actually executed some things very well offensively today, but we just didn’t have some shots go down for us. I’m happy with our execution, we just didn’t get some shots to fall. Like I’ve always said, though, when you defend well you always seem to have an opportunity to win.”
Hallie Gunnoe, a sophomore transfer from High Point University, enjoyed her best outing in an FSU uniform in the victory. The former Summers County standout scored a college career-high 16 points to help lead Fairmont to the win.
“We were trailing at the half and knew we weren’t playing together or as well as we should have been playing,” said Gunnoe. “At halftime coach Mac told us to come out and defend and go from there and that’s what we did. I think we did a pretty good job defensively in the second half. We dug down deep and knew we needed to come out of here with the win because we knew we were better than we showed in the first half.
“Offensively we did a pretty good job of sharing the ball, trying to find the open man and getting ourselves the best look at a shot as possible every time. That was a key too.”
Kaitlin Snyder added 15 points for FSU, 11 of which came in the second half. She also recorded her first-double of the season as she finished with 10 rebounds. Snyder also dished out a team-high six assists and recorded five steals.
Fairmont’s Hailey Garrett, who battled foul trouble in the opening half, finished with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds. She recorded all eight of her points and grabbed eight of her 12 rebounds in the decisive second half. Nicholson and Welch chipped in six points apiece for FSU, while Kendra Holmes and Emily Lohr both contributed three. Lohr was back in action for the first time for the Lady Falcons since suffering a knee injury back on Dec. 1. The former starter played 11 minutes Saturday.
Concord, which shot just 29.8 percent from the field for the game (17-of-57) and got outrebounded by Fairmont by 14, was led by Smith, who finished with 13 points and Jacqueline Kestner, who ended up with 11.
League-leading FSU returns to action Monday evening when it hosts West Virginia State in a 5:30 p.m. game at the Joe Retton Arena.