By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
In a fierce battle for the top spot in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings, it was Glenville State that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Fairmont State in the waning seconds Monday night to record an 85-84 win at the jam-packed Jesse R. Lilly Gymnasium.
The victory, Glenville’s ninth in a row, secured the top spot in the league standings for the Lady Pioneers, who improved to 15-2 overall and to 10-1 in the conference. FSU, on the other hand, fell to 11-5 overall and to 9-3 in the WVIAC with its second-straight loss.
Fairmont State remains second in the 15-team league standings.
Trailing 84-81 with 33 seconds left, GSC’s Jelena Elez attacked the basket and was fouled by Fairmont’s Hailey Garrett with 14.5 seconds remaining. She made both free throws to cut the margin to one.
FSU then inbounded the ball to Kaitlin Snyder, who, after dribbling for five seconds, attempted to pass over the defense with nine seconds remaining. Her pass was tipped and stolen in the backcourt by Glenville’s Ginny Mills, who drove to the basket and hit the game-winning layup with 6.5 seconds left. Fairmont got the ball in again and had hopes of getting a final shot, but once again the Lady Pioneers came up with a steal to secure the victory.
“We had the game where we wanted it there at the end and just didn’t make the plays to get it done,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “Glenville, to its credit, did.
“I tell my players all of the time that one possession doesn’t win or lose a ball game, and that was the case tonight. If we had taken advantage of some opportunities we had in the game or made more of our free throws, we easily could’ve won.”
FSU, which shoots 70 percent from the foul line as a team, was 14-of-24 Monday night (58.3 percent) from the charity stripe.
Fairmont controlled the game early, racing to a 20-11 lead in the first seven minutes. Glenville, however, regrouped and rallied with a 36-11 spurt to open a 16-point, 47-31, advantage late in the first half. Fairmont answered Glenville’s run with a 9-0 one of its own to trim the deficit to just seven at 47-40 at the half.
In the second half, the Lady Pioneers never led by more than nine and held a seven-point, 79-72, lead with just 5:20 left to play.
Once again, however, Fairmont rallied. Led by Emily Lohr, Garrett and Snyder, the Lady Falcons ripped off a 12-2 run to take an 84-81 lead with 51 seconds remaining.
Lohr, who finished with nine points, nailed a pair of 3-pointers during the run, the last of which gave Fairmont its first lead of the second half at 82-81. Snyder then extended it to three with a pair of free throws, but FSU couldn’t maintain the lead in the final seconds.
“I’m extremely proud of my team because we never quit and we competed for 40 minutes tonight,” McDonald said. “We were down 16 in the first half and cut it to seven at the break, and we were down seven late and rallied again and took the lead.
“If there’s such a thing as learning something from our last two losses, I think we did. We competed the last 15 minutes of regulation and in overtime in our loss to Shepherd, and we competed for 40 minutes tonight, which I think is honestly the first time we’ve done that this year. I like our basketball team. Some people may think we’re not that good, but I believe we are.”
FSU was led by Garrett’s 23 points and nine rebounds. The Lady Falcons also got a career-high 22-point performance from Hallie Gunnoe, 13 points from Tiffany Nicholson and 10 from Snyder, who was harassed all night by Glenville’s pressure defense.
The Lady Pioneers, who improved to 9-0 in home games this season with the victory, were led by Kenyell Goodson’s 19 points. GSC also got 13 points and eight rebounds from Mills, 13 points and five boards from Kenyona Simmons and 13 points from Elez.
The Lady Falcons will be back in action Wednesday when they return home to the Joe Retton Arena to host Urbana University in a 6 p.m. nonconference game.