The Times West Virginian

March 2, 2014

COLUMN: Senior season comes full circle for FSU’s Innocent

By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — In like a lion, out like a lamb. That old adage could be used to describe Bri Innocent’s senior season with Fairmont State.

Not to say that she finished her season quietly. Quite the opposite actually.

In her first game in a Falcon uniform, she played like a lion, pouring in 20 points and ripping down 10 rebounds. In her last regular-season game Saturday, she was the lamb, effortlessly coasting to 27 points and 16 rebounds.

Both were wins for the Falcons.

Saturday’s 103-80 win was even more special to the senior as she could look out into the stands and see her family cheering her on.

“I think whenever they’re here, she just feels complete and is able to go out there and just let go and just play,” teammate Hailey Garrett said.

At times it was almost as if she were looking into a mirror for two different reasons.

One reason being her family had made signs with her face on them. And two, her twin sister, Lianna, was there.

“We wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Lianna said. “Everyone coordinated their schedules to get off work, and we just packed in the car and carpooled up here.”

Lianna said that Bri didn’t ask for the signs, but she loved them.

The game was not only special for Bri, but for Lianna, as well.

The twins grew up playing basketball together and took on the nickname “Twin Towers” on their teams back in Ohio.

Bri’s journey has had some stops on the way to Fairmont State, though.

Out of high school, she signed to play at Edison Community College, where she averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. From there, she went to Division I Wright State and took a role as a bench player, averaging 3.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. After just one season there, Bri came to Fairmont State, where she’s found a home, according to her twin.

“She didn’t like the whole D-I. It was a lot of pressure,” Lianna said. “This small-town school is more her fit.”

Upon coming to FSU, Innocent has flourished in a reserve role, scoring 9.9 points and pulling down 7.0 rebounds per game, posting six double-doubles and scoring in double figures on 12 different occasions.

But it’s not about the stats for Bri, Lianna said.

“I think she just loves the game. I don’t think stats even really matter to her,” she said. “I think she just wants to win.”

That’s evident when you watch Bri on and off the floor during games.

She’ll be the first player to help her teammate up after a foul or to jump up in celebration when another teammate scores.

The 6-foot-1 center who is rarely seen without a smile was welcomed with open arms by her teammates, even if she does look a little intimidating.

“Personally, I was a little intimidated by her as soon as she first came in,” Garrett admitted. “But playing with her in practice and in the games and everything, she’s really just a great player and person to be around.”

Bri admitted that it took time to get acclimated but once they did, it was a perfect match.

“At the beginning of the year it took a few games for us to start playing together well,” she said. “But now we’re best friends and get along so well. And that’s transferred onto the court.”

For Bri, being surrounded by both of her families, her biological family as well as her team, mattered the most on her big day.

“It means the world,” Bri said of having her family there.

Now, Bri just has one mission left: to send her teammates out with a successful tournament run.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.