Times West Virginian
Fairmont State's inside duo of Hailey Garrett and Brianna Innocent keyed a 17-0 run during a 4:41 span midway through the second half to break open a close game and lead the Lady Falcons to a 70-56 victory here Saturday afternoon over pesky West Virginia Wesleyan at the Rockefeller Center.
With the score knotted at 41 and 13:23 remaining, FSU went to work inside against the Lady Bobcats and Wesleyan simply had no answer. Innocent, who finished with 12 points off the bench, scored seven of her points on the game-changing run, while Garrett, who led all scorers in the contest with 22 points, added six on the crucial spurt which gave FSU a commanding 58-41 lead with 8:42 left to play.
“That was a huge point in the game,” said Garrett, who was 10-of-13 from the field. “We knew we had to stop their run. We were having success all game inside and by driving the ball to the rim. Bri made some key plays for us during that stretch. She's so dominant when she gets the ball inside.
“I also thought our guards did great jobs of finding both Bri and I inside and making good passes. We really shared the basketball very well today and that's what allowed us to make the run, take control of the game and get the win.”
The victory, Fairmont's fifth in six outings, improved the Lady Falcons to 10-6 overall and to 8-5 in the Mountain East Conference. FSU climbed back into fifth place in the 12-team league standings and will host 10th-ranked and league-leading Glenville State (18-2, 13-1) Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena. Fairmont lost in the final seconds, 111-110, to the Lady Pioneers in their first meeting back on Nov. 25 in Glenville.
Turnovers, which have hampered FSU's success all season long, were costly again Saturday for the Lady Falcons who committed 16 in the game's first 25 minutes which allowed the last-place Lady Bobcats to hang around and keep it close. However, in the final 15 minutes Fairmont took care of the basketball, suffered just four miscues and shared the ball very well much to the delight of veteran coach Steve McDonald.
“I haven't had a team pass the basketball for about a 10-minute stretch there when we started to pull away as I did today in a long time,” said McDonald. “We really shared the ball which made me ecstatic. I mean there were occasions where we passed the ball today on an open layup to give a teammate a chance at an even more open layup. That just speaks volumes about our players and how well they played together.
“We weren't surprised at all that Wesleyan played well. When you looked at their scores and tape of them the last three or four games they've played really well. Now, we did turn the ball over there a little too much early on and believe me I stress the importance of taking care of the basketball all of the time to our players. Right now, more than anything, I just think it's a lack of focus on our part and we do need to get that corrected. But, during that last 15 minutes of the game we took care of the basketball, executed very well offensively and played pretty good defense.”
FSU, which bounced back from a heartbreaking 63-62 last-second loss to West Virginia State Thursday, shot 53.4 percent from the field in Saturday's win (31-of-58) and had 19 assists on its 31 field goals. The Lady Falcons also out-rebounded Wesleyan, 35-30.
Joining Garrett and Innocent in double figures for FSU were Emily Lohr, who finished with 12 points and five boards and Hallie Gunnoe, who chipped in 11 points – all of which came in the game's final 16:22. Fairmont also got nine points and five assists from Makenzie White and four points, six rebounds and five steals from Deidra Combs.
Wesleyan, which lost its 13th straight game, fell to 2-16 overall and to 0-14 in the league. The Lady Bobcats were paced by Brittany Williams, who finished with 18 points, but was limited to just four after halftime. Kacey Johnson added 11 points and Chloe Bland ended up with 10.