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February 26, 2014

Lady Falcons blow late lead, fall to NDC

SOUTH EUSOUTH EUCLID, Ohio CLID, Ohio — Fairmont State’s chance to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament suffered a serious blow here Tuesday evening at the Murphy Gymnasium.

The Lady Falcons squandered a nine-point lead in the final two minutes and lost 73-69 to Notre Dame College.

The loss drops FSU, which was battling for the right to earn a first-round bye in next week’s Mountain East Conference Basketball Tournament, to 15-9 overall and to 13-8 in the MEC. It also dropped the Lady Falcons into a tie for fifth place in the 12-team league standings with Urbana University.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 14-11 overall and to 11-10 in the conference. The victory also assured Notre Dame of hosting an opening-round game at home next Tuesday in the MEC Tournament.

For the second time this season late-game turnovers ended up costing FSU a win. Earlier this year, Fairmont let a six-point lead slip away in the last 34 seconds and lost 63-62 to West Virginia State.

Last night the Lady Falcons led 69-60 inside of two minutes and turned the basketball over four times down the stretch. NDC took full advantage of those miscues outscoring Fairmont 13-0 in the game’s final 1:47.

“I told the team after the game that we have to learn how to play in the last two minutes of a game,” said a disappointed FSU coach Steve McDonald. “By now we should have learned a lesson from earlier in the season, but we obviously didn’t. We quite simply handed them the game tonight.

“Now, to Notre Dame’s credit they did make plays at the end to get the win, but we pretty much handed the ball to them. Obviously I’m disappointed, more so for my team than myself. This is going to end up being a very costly loss for us.”

Notre Dame guard Martha Nagbe nailed back-to-back 3-point field goals to pull her team within three at 69-66 with 1:25 to play. An FSU turnover then led directly to Courtney Clark’s driving layup on which she was fouled and made the free throw to help NDC tie the game at 69 with 1:10 to play.

A missed jumper by Fairmont’s Emily Lohr with 35 seconds left led to a top-of-the-key 3-pointer by Clark with 18 seconds remaining which gave her squad the lead for good at 72-69.

At the other end, Fairmont’s Deidra Combs missed a 3-pointer which would’ve tied the game with nine seconds left to play and NDC’s Nagbe cleared the rebound and was fouled. She made one of her two free throw attempts with seven seconds left to secure the win.

“We took control of the game in the second half, were up by nine late and we just didn’t finish,” said McDonald. “You can’t come down on the road against a team with good 3-point shooters and give them the ball by turning it over. You’re just giving them extra chances and you can’t do that.”

Nagbe finished with 15 points to lead Notre Dame. Thirteen of her points came in the second half, including nine in the last 2:21 of the game. NDC also got 13 points apiece from Clark and Molly Ritz.

FSU was led by Lohr’s 14 points, all of which came in the final 20 minutes. The Lady Falcons also got 11 points from both Combs and Hailey Garrett, 10 points from Makenzie White and nine points each from both Emily Puskarich and Brianna Innocent.

Fairmont shot nearly 52 percent from the field in the loss (28-of-54), but got pounded on the boards by Notre Dame, which held a 38-27 advantage in rebounds. Thirteen of NDC’s rebounds came on the offensive glass.

FSU will attempt to re-group Thursday with a 6 p.m. nonconference make-up game on the road against Washington Adventist. The Lady Falcons will then close out the regular season at home Saturday at 2 p.m. when they host Shepherd University at the Joe Retton Arena.

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