By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
“Be active,” Fairmont State coach Steve McDonald yelled at his team quite frequently.
And active they were, as they overpowered Bluefield State in an 86-59 victory at Joe Retton Arena Saturday afternoon.
“That’s not a motto; that’s just something you need to do to be good,” McDonald said as the reason for yelling the phrase.
The Lady Falcons, led by Hailey Garrett, hustled on both sides of the court and out-rebounded the Lady Blues, 47-29.
“It speaks a lot (to how we’ve practiced),” Garrett said. “Coach (McDonald) really puts an emphasis on that so to beat them by that much is really good.”
The game started out pretty even, with both teams trading buckets for much of the first half.
Garrett, a North Marion graduate, and Division I transfer Makenzie White started the game off with six points each. But it was the late 12-4 run for the Lady Falcons that put them ahead.
“We knew the things that they were going to do coming out,” Bluefield State head coach James Oliver said. “In the next level, we had some individuals take some bad shots, and as a team we allowed ourselves to be forced into that.”
McDonald said his team had a rough day of practice Friday, but he was pleased with the way the women bounced back.
“As a coach you’re never pleased when you have a bad practice,” McDonald said. “I thought today we played enthusiastic and with a great effort.”
A big part of that effort was senior Brianna Innocent, who provided solid help off the bench.
“I think we have a number of players on our team that can get us 20 on any particular night,” said McDonald of the depth of his squad. “Bri played well. All of our players played extremely well.”
The 6-foot-1 center from Wright State came in and scored six straight points to put the Falcons up 22-14.
“It’s just all for the team. I can’t even take any credit,” Innocent said. “We just try to play physical and smart at the same time.”
Innocent finished the game with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.
After closing out the half with a 43-25 lead, the Lady Falcons came back out the same way they finished.
“(Coach McDonald) said, the most unimportant score is the score at halftime,” said Garrett. “He said to come out and play the first five minutes really hard and seal the deal.”
The ladies must’ve listened.
To open the half, Fairmont State jumped out on a 15-3 run, extending the lead to 30 points. The Lady Falcons would lead by as much as 37 in the second half.
“We came out a little sluggish, but we knew we needed to come out and play,” Innocent said of the second-half burst. “We were really ready for this game.”
For Bluefield State, it would never recover from the strong start of the second half by the Lady Falcons.
“We decided we were going to go with a little bit more pressure and picked it up full court,” Oliver said. “Defensively, we’re not where we need to be.”
A constant throughout the game for the Lady Falcons was Garrett and White.
Garrett posted a double-double, with 12 points and 12 boards, while White was just three assists shy of being the third player with a double-double, with 19 points and seven assists.
“I think it’s a very good start to the season, but everybody wants to improve,” Garrett said of the performance. “The hard work has really paid off, but we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to keep working hard. There’s going to be other opponents.”
Towards the end of the game, North Marion graduate Kaitlyn Antolock stepped into the game. When she scored her first bucket, the crowd showed her some support by erupting for the loudest cheer of the game.
Coach McDonald likened the depth of this year’s team to his 2004-05 team.
“We had about five people on the floor who could give us 20 on about any given night,” McDonald said of that squad.
That team finished the season 28-4. With a win to start off the season, the Lady Falcons are on their way.
The Fairmont State womens’ team is back in action Tuesday night when the Lady Falcons host California (Pa.) at Joe Retton Arena at 6 p.m.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.