By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
Playing their fifth game in 10 days and coming off a 10-point loss to rival West Liberty on Saturday in a battle for second place in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings, one wondered how Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons would react Monday evening against visiting Washington Adventist in a nonconference game at the Joe Retton Arena.
Just fine was the answer provided rather quickly by the Lady Falcons.
FSU raced to a 30-5 lead less than 13 minutes into the contest and then held off a gallant comeback bid by the Lady Shock to record a 73-57 victory.
The win improved Fairmont State to 17-9 on the year.
“Our goal tonight was to come out and take care of our business,” said FSU sophomore guard Hallie Gunnoe, who scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the victory. “We’ve got a big game on the road Thursday night with Seton Hill and we want to be ready for it.
“They (Washington Adventist) only had six players, but we didn’t let ourselves get caught judging them on that fact. A lot of people got to play; we played pretty well together and we played at the level and standard that we set for ourselves.”
Fairmont led by as many as 28 in the first half before settling for a 42-15 advantage at the break. Kaitlin Snyder led FSU with a game-high 24 points and five assists. She scored 13 of her points in the opening half.
In the final 20 minutes Washington Adventist re-grouped and made a serious run at the Lady Falcons thanks to a number of long-range bombs from Vanessa Rice and Angelica Nevarez. Those two combined for six second-half 3-pointers to help the Lady Shock make more of a game of it.
Nevarez finished with a team-high 19 points — all of which came in the second half — while Rice chipped in 18 points, 11 of which came in the last 20 minutes.
“Prior to this game (assistant) coach Jenna (Eckleberry) told us that it’s the teams that really pull together and play well in the next few weeks who have a chance to excel and play well in the tournament,” said FSU senior backup center Alana George. “This was a great game to get us refocused on what we need to do. Most everybody got some minutes and for the most part we played well and got to work on some things like our halfcourt defense that we don’t normally get to work on.
“Give them credit. They only had six players, but they were very athletic and they had some really good shooters. They easily could have quit and just gone through the motions after the first half, but they battled in the second half, made a run on us and we were able to withstand that. It was a perfect game to get us ready for our final two regular-season games this week.”
FSU’s Emily Lohr, who finished with eight points, agreed.
“We were a little disappointed in ourselves coming off of the West Liberty loss because that was a big game for us and we really didn’t play up to our potential,” said Lohr. “Coming into tonight I think it was important for us to show people that we’re not quitting and not done. We feel like there’s a lot of basketball remaining for us, and we really want to be playing well heading into this final stretch of games. Tonight, I think we took a big step toward doing that.”
Led by Nevarez, Washington Adventist started the final 20 minutes of action on fire.
The Lady Shock outscored the Lady Falcons 18-4 in the first five minutes of the second half to whittle the 27-point halftime lead down to 13.
That, however, was as close as FSU would let Washington Adventist get. Led by Snyder, Lohr, George, Hailey Garrett and Briana Welch pushed the lead back to 20 over the course of the next eight minutes.
Welch finished with six points and six rebounds for FSU, Garrett chipped in four points and grabbed eight rebounds, Courtney Swiger finished with seven points and four boards and Tiffany Nicholson contributed six points. Fourteen Lady Falcons saw action in the game and 10 of them scored.
Washington Adventist, which fell to 5-19 with the loss, also got eight points from Briana McClain and six from Jerria Brown-McDaniel.
FSU, which is third in the WVIAC standings, will be idle until Thursday when it visits Greensburg, Pa., for a crucial league showdown with sixth-place Seton Hill University at 5:30 p.m. The Lady Falcons edged the Lady Griffins, 59-58, in overtime back on Jan. 7 in Fairmont.