Times West Virginian
Just like their male counterparts did one night earlier, Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons erased a 13-point second half deficit with a strong showing in the final 20 minutes to topple Wheeling Jesuit University here Thursday evening 67-62 at the McDonough Center.
The win improved FSU to 6-3 overall and to 4-1 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Wheeling, on the other hand, dropped to 4-5 overall and to 1-4 in the league.
“I think there were a lot of similarities to our game tonight and the men’s game last night,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “However, the reason the men were down at the half and we were down were slightly different. I felt like tonight we really didn’t play very hard in the first half, while Wheeling Jesuit played extremely hard. That disappointed me because I thought we had a really good week of practicing leading up to this game.
“In the second half the reason our shots were falling is because we finally got some rhythm on offense because we picked up the pace. Like most teams in America we’re a rhythm team and shooting percentages tend to increase when there’s good ball movement and rhythm to each possession. I was really pleased with our rhythm on offense in the second half. Also, I think our play on defense in the second half was 100 percent better.”
Trailing 38-25 with 18 minutes remaining Fairmont exploded on a 16-6 run over the course of the next 3:36 to take a 41-40 advantage with 14:24 left to play. FSU’s early second-half surge was keyed entirely by Tiffany Nicholson and Hailey Garrett who combined for the first 18 points of the second half for the Lady Falcons. Nicholson finished with 13 points, 10 of which came in the second half, while Garrett posted her fourth double-double performance of the season finishing with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Eight of Garrett’s 11 points came in the final half.
“After the first half we regrouped and came out in the second half with a sense of purpose and determination to win,” said FSU’s Kaitlin Snyder, who led all scorers in the contest with 23 points. “Tiff and Hailey did good jobs of finding ways to hit shots which allowed us to get back into the game.”
Once Fairmont got the lead it couldn’t hold it initially as the Lady Cardinals answered the Lady Falcons’ run with a 14-8 spurt of their own to take a 54-49 advantage with 6:54 remaining.
That’s when FSU’s Brianna Welch and Snyder took over the game. That pair combined to score Fairmont’s final 18 points en route to the win. Seven of those points came from Welch, who finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half. She also grabbed seven rebounds.
Snyder, who struggled in the first half and had just seven points at the break, scored 16 second-half points, including the final eight of the contest for Fairmont in the game’s last 2:53.
FSU shot just 33.3 percent (10-of-30) in the first half from the field, including just 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Lady Falcons were also just 1-of-4 at the foul line. In the final 20 minutes Fairmont connected on 15-of-25 field goals (60 percent), including a 5-of-7 performance (71.4 percent) from behind the 3-point line. FSU was also a perfect 9-of-9 at the foul line in the second half.
“We pulled together and showed some maturity in the second half,” said Snyder, who was 4-of-6 from the field in the second half and 6-of-6 at the foul line. “We stayed calm and knew that in order for us to get another conference win we had to play each possession with a sense of urgency. I’m proud of us tonight.”
FSU’s defense held Wheeling to just a 9-of-30 shooting performance (30 percent) in the final half, including a 2-of-10 showing from 3-point range.
The Lady Cardinals were led by Breanna Butler, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds. WJU also got 13 points and five boards from Jamie Sobczak and 11 points from Taylor Lubinsky.
The Lady Falcons will return to action Saturday with another conference road game against Ohio Valley University. Tip off for that contest is slated for 2 p.m. in Vienna.