By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
When Fairmont State’s women’s basketball team toppled Shepherd, 103-80, Saturday, coach Steve McDonald didn’t know who his team would face.
It didn’t matter, though, according to the coach.
The Lady Falcons (17-9) are a team that has had tournament success, winning the WVIAC Tournament last season in impressive fashion. McDonald knows that his team knows the taste of victory and they’ll be ready to play whoever was slated in front of them.
“We’ve done well enough in this tournament in the past few years that we know that you simply come out, practice and play the next game,” McDonald said. “You play whoever they tell you to play. You show up and that’s who you play. And you don’t make excuses and start talking about stuff other than, we’re playing those guys and that’s what who we’ve got to try to beat.”
The win on Saturday has given his team an added sense of confidence and some momentum going into their game tonight against West Virginia Wesleyan at 7 p.m. at Joe Retton Arena.
“We had a bit of a rough outing at Adventist for many, many reasons. I think it was good for our team’s mentality more than basketball and X’s and O’s,” McDonald noted. “Our mentality has gotten us excited. It gave us a really good team feeling going into next week. In that sense, the win was huge.”
The win came in impressive form with a dominating performance from senior Bri Innocent, who scored 27 points and pulled down 16 rebounds off the bench for FSU.
Innocent, as well as her teammates, knows that personal numbers are moot in the discussion of wins and losses, though. And they know that it’ll take more than just one player to make a run.
“I love playing with (Hailey Garrett) and Makenzie (White), our strong point guard. We’ve got a couple of shooters and Deidra (Combs) defensively,” Innocent, a 6-foot-1 center, said. “We just have the whole package and I’m looking forward to the tournament.”
Garrett, a standout in her own right, echoed the sentiment but rather pointing out the positives, she’s focused on what she and the team can do to get better.
In the blowout win over Shepherd, the Lady Falcons committed 23 turnovers. Seventeen of those turnovers came in the first half and FSU held just a 45-41 halftime lead. When they cut down on those mistakes, the Lady Falcons outscored the Lady Rams, 58-39 in the second half.
Garrett said that while there are some things to take away from the win, there are still things to be worked on.
“I think, obviously, we need to work on our turnovers and taking care of the ball,” Garrett said. “But I think what we can take away from it is that coming together as a team and being able to come together in the crucial times whenever we really it. We just need to continue to share the ball, make the open shots, post up: all the little things. We’ll be fine.”
While veteran players like Garrett, who averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds during last season’s WVIAC Tournament, have tournament experience, she hopes to pass her knowledge to younger players like White and Combs.
“Keep your head,” she said. “Don’t get get flustered and care too much about the next game. You have to really focus on one game at a time.”
FSU will hope for the same conference tournament success this season as they had last season.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.