By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
ERIE, Pa. —
For the first seven-plus minutes here Friday evening in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Women’s Basketball Tournament at Gannon University’s Hammermill Center, eighth-seeded Fairmont State and the top-seeded Gannon Lady Golden Knights looked like they were playing a season opener.
The two teams had combined for more turnovers (13) than they had points (12), and it looked as if there may be no end to the sloppy play.
Unfortunately for Fairmont, there was
Seventh-ranked Gannon regrouped after a media timeout, cleaned up its act and wiped out a 7-5 FSU lead with a dominating 25-2 run over the course of the next 11:10 to take a commanding 30-9 lead en route to a 66-40 victory.
“At the media timeout we told the girls to just keep playing and keep their heads up because it was going to come around for us,” said Gannon head coach Cleve Wright, who saw his team improve to 29-4 with the victory and advance to Saturday’s semifinals of the regional where they’ll face fourth-seeded Indiana (Pa.) University, a 72-59 winner over fifth-seeded Bloomsburg (Pa) University in Friday’s first round. “We were getting good looks and they just weren’t falling for us.
“Defensively. we were doing what we needed to do against them, so I wasn’t concerned there. I just felt like if we just kept executing and getting shots eventually we’d get things going and shots would fall and they did.”
Boy did they ever. After a miserable start the Lady Knights ended up shooting 45.5 percent from the field (10-of-22) in the first half and a red-hot 57.7 percent in the second half (15-of-26).
Fairmont, on the other hand, never did really get on track against Gannon’s stingy defense, which hounded Lady Falcon shooters all night, held FSU to its lowest point total of the season and forced a season-high 25 turnovers. FSU shot just 28.3 percent from the field for the game (13-of-46), including a mere 20 percent in the opening half.
“Gannon beat us up tonight. They’re very good,” said Fairmont State coach Steve McDonald, whose team finished the season 23-10. “I’m proud of my team, though. We never quit. I don’t think we showed you what kind of team we really are, but a great deal of that had to do with Gannon.”
After falling behind by 21, Fairmont rallied late in the first half and trimmed the deficit to 30-16 before Gannon’s Mollie Sebald hit a halfcourt 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 33-16 at the break.
In the second half Fairmont settled in and got the lead down to 14 on three occasions early with chances to trim it to 12 or 11. but the Lady Falcons were never able to convert on any of those chances and the hot-shooting Lady Golden Knights made them pay by pushing the lead back to 20 with 12:27 remaining. After that FSU never got any closer than 17.
“That’s how it goes sometimes,” said Fairmont sophomore center Hailey Garrett, who led her team with 12 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks. “We didn’t make as many shots as we would’ve like to, and they just shot the ball very well tonight, especially in the second half. For the most part. I feel like we were playing good defense, but they’ve got some very good shooters and very good post players and they weren’t missing.”
FSU senior point guard Kaitlin Snyder was the only other Lady Falcon to reach double figures in the scoring column in the loss. She finished with 10 points and left the game with 8:06 remaining with a back injury after suffering a hard fall on a drive to the basket around the 12-minute mark of the second half.
Emily Lohr chipped in nine points for FSU, while Hallie Gunnoe finished with seven.
Gannon was led by center Nettie Blake’s 15 points, 10 of which came in the second half. She was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. The Lady Golden Knights, who had nine different players score in the victory, also got 12 points from Sebald, nine from Kelley Sundberg and eight from Amanda Berchtold.
In other first-round action in Friday’s Atlantic Regional sixth-seeded Glenville State used a single-game NCAA Division II Tournament record 21 3-point field goals to eliminate third-seeded and defending national champion Shaw (N.C.) University, 111-86, and seventh-seeded California (Pa.) University topped second-seeded Edinboro (Pa.) University, 80-72. Glenville and Cal will meet in today’s semifinals at 5 p.m.