By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
No arrests were made Friday afternoon at the Joe Retton Arena, but perhaps one should have been.
That’s because Fairmont State’s women’s basketball team literally stole a victory away from visiting Clarion (Pa.) University in the opening round of the WVIAC/PSAC Challenge.
FSU’s 70-68 win in the season opener for both schools was thrilling to say the least and the outcome definitely wasn’t decided until the final horn had sounded.
Full final statistics of the game were not available after the contest due to a computer error, but it certainly didn’t take a mathematician to conclude that the Lady Falcons overcame an absolute horrible afternoon of shooting both from the field and at the free throw line to record the win.
“I learned a long time ago if you win by two or 42 it doesn’t matter,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “I also learned a long time ago that I’d
rather learn from winning than losing. As a result, we’re thrilled. We executed a few things very well down the stretch both offensively and defensively. We learned a lot about our team today and we learned it in a win.”
FSU All-American senior point guard Kaitlin Snyder endured arguably her worst shooting performance from both 3-point range and the foul line in the win, but with the outcome still in question Snyder, who was 0-of-11 from long range until the final four minutes, drained her only two threes of the contest and they were huge. Her first came with 3:50 remaining and gave Fairmont a 64-60 lead. The last one came with 1:12 left to play and the shot clock dangerously close to running out and gave FSU a 69-68 advantage it never lost.
“I’m happy we won. That’s the most important thing — we won,” said Snyder, who still finished with a game-high 26 points and was visibly upset following the contest. “I didn’t shoot well. It happens. I don’t know why, but I just kept shooting. That’s what shooters do.”
Fairmont got Clarion to turn the basketball over three times in the final minute, but couldn’t put the game away because of missed free throws. As a team Fairmont was just 18-of-32 from the foul line in the win. Snyder missed the front end of a one-and-one with 22 seconds left and then Hailey Garrett connected on just one-of-two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to give FSU its 70-68 lead.
“I really wanted that second one,” said Garrett, who finished with 13 points, including nine in the second half and also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. “I’d have felt a lot better if it had gone down, still though we found a way to win today. It certainly wasn’t pretty by any means. We struggled shooting, but at the end of the day we got the victory which is the most important thing.”
Clarion never got a good look at a shot in the final 11 seconds. Tania Holmes got off an off-balance one-handed shot in the waning seconds which was partially blocked by the Lady Falcons and rolled out of bounds with three-tenths of a second remaining giving the Lady Golden Eagles one last chance. On the ensuing inbounds play, Clarion got the ball into Aleya Miller in the paint but she never handled it cleanly and was unable to get off a quick shot attempt before the final buzzer sounded.
Snyder’s 26-point performance put her over the 1,500-point mark for her career. She currently has 1,518 career points which ranks her eighth in school history.
FSU, which improved to 1-0, also got 14 points and five rebounds from Emily Lohr and eight points and five rebounds off the bench from backup forward Kendra Holmes.
Clarion, which fell to 0-1, was led by Ann Deibert’s 14 points and five rebounds. The Lady Golden Eagles also got 12 points apiece from both Holmes and Lauren Savulchak. Savulchak also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Fairmont State will tangle with Indiana (Pa.) University today in the final round of the challenge at 4 p.m. IUP (1-0) rolled past Concord University (0-1) in the first round of the challenge Friday, 72-44.
“It was good for us to get that first one under our belts,” said Snyder. “It wasn’t very pretty, but we won. Now we have to quickly put it behind us and get ready for a really good IUP team. We watched them play Concord and they’re very, very good. We’re going to have to play a lot better (today).”
Clarion and Concord will open the day’s action at 2 p.m.
Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team will close out the day’s festivities at 7:30 p.m. when they battle Ohio-Eastern University in their season opener at the Joe Retton Arena.