The Times West Virginian

February 23, 2014

Lady Falcons finish strong in 71-56 romp over Wise

Times West Virginian

WISE, Va. — Maybe it was the fourth straight day of being on the road or maybe it was something else.

Whatever the case, Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons looked a bit out of sorts and uninspired through the first 16 minutes of action here Saturday afternoon against Virginia-Wise at the David J. Prior Convocation Center and as a result trailed the Mountain East Conference’s 10th-place team by nine points.

Luckily FSU awoke from its slumber, went on a 14-2 run during the final 3:30 of the opening half, took a 34-32 lead at the break and never looked back en route to a 71-56 victory.

The win, coupled with West Virginia State’s victory over Urbana, allowed the Lady Falcons to improve to 15-8 overall, to 13-7 in the MEC and move into a three-way tie in the league for third place with State and the University of Charleston.

“I believe the game was won in the first half when we were down 29-20 and then finished out the half playing very well to take a two-point lead at halftime,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “Until the end of the half there I thought we played very poorly.

“In the second half our effort was much better and as a result it allowed us to do more things defensively which created some problems for them. I’m very happy with the way we played for the entire second half.”

Freshman Emily Puskarich and sophomore Makenzie White helped key FSU’s late first-half surge. Puskarich buried a pair of 3-pointers, while White connected on two field goals. Together they accounted for 10 of the Lady Falcons’ final 14 points of the half.

“The first half was definitely a struggle and a little slow for us,” said Fairmont junior center Hailey Garrett, who didn’t connect on a single field goal in the first 20 minutes and was held to just two points. “When Emily came in and hit those threes for us, it got us started and got us on a roll. She really came up big when we needed a lift offensively.

“Thankfully shots started falling for us in the second half which helped us pick up our intensity, get out and run with the basketball.”

Both Garrett and Puskarich led the Lady Falcons with 16 points apiece. The 16 points were a career high for Puskarich, who accounted for 12 of her points on four 3-pointers in the opening half. Garrett, meanwhile, got 14 of her points in the second half when she consistently dominated the Lady Cavaliers in and around the paint connecting on seven field goals. She also grabbed seven rebounds.

After Wise quickly tied the game at 34 to start the final half, Fairmont exploded on an 18-4 run over the course of the next five minutes to open a 52-38 lead and the contest was never really close again. FSU eventually extended its lead to as many as 23 before settling for the 15-point victory.

White added 15 points, a game-high eight assists and two steals for Fairmont. The Lady Falcons also got 10 points, four rebounds and four steals from Deidra Combs, seven points from Emily Lohr and five points and seven rebounds from Brianna Innocent.

Virginia-Wise, which fell to 9-15 overall and to 5-15 in the MEC, was led by senior Reynesha Archer, who finished with 18 points. The Lady Cavaliers also got 12 points from Katie Jo Lester, 11 points from Kayla Carey and 10 points from Taylor Sandidge.

Fairmont, which is hoping to secure a first-round bye for the upcoming MEC Tournament which starts in just over a week, has now won two in a row and 10 of its last 13 games. The Lady Falcons will have a busy final week of the regular season. They will visit Notre Dame College Tuesday for a makeup conference game at 5:30 p.m. The squad will then travel to Takoma Park, Md. Thursday for a 6 p.m. nonconference makeup game against Washington Adventist before coming home Saturday to end the regular season with a MEC battle with Shepherd University at 2 p.m.