FAIRMONT – Fairmont State men’s basketball coach Tim Koenig, who is at the helm of the program for the first season after leading Notre Dame College to a Mountain East Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance last winter, has a plethora of words he uses to describe the Fairmont community. Perhaps his favorite among them is “special.”
“It’s just a special place. The Fairmont community has embraced us; you walk down the halls in the building and you see Coach Retton’s picture and all these great players, the people in the community come to watch the practice here. We didn’t have all that at Notre Dame. It’s a great place where we’re at, and we need to embrace them back and do our best to improve the community,” he said.
One way to thank a loyal and dedicated fan base is to provide them with high-quality, entertaining action on the court. On Friday, both the men’s and women’s teams at Fairmont kicked off the season by doing just that, as the men hosted the Joe Retton Classic and the women hosted the MEC/PSAC Cross-Over. Both tournaments will continue today with a second day of action.
Changing the culture one win at a time
“We want to change the culture here,” said first-year Fairmont State women’s basketball coach Stephanie Anderson.
The former assistant took over as the first new coach for the program in a number of years, and while the program has a solid foundation of success in the past few decades, Anderson wants to build upon what exists and make it stronger.
“The main thing I want to see from these girls is I want them to outwork everyone else on the floor this weekend. The biggest thing we tried to do with this team is at the end of each huddle we say ‘W-H-Y” — ‘W’ is for working hard, ‘H’ is for humility, and ‘Y’ is for you, or and holding yourself accountable,” Anderson said.
“We want to work hard, dive for loose balls, and do all the little things we can to win basketball games. If we do that, good things will occur.”
That mentality was on clear display as the Lady Falcons downed Lock Haven University 79-70 in overtime on Friday. They tallied 19 steals and forced 29 turnovers, and scored 16 points off those giveaways. Today they will take the court at Joe Retton Arena at 6 p.m. as they host Seton Hill.
Falcons win on last-second layup
Fairmont State held the lead for just four seconds as they hosted Millersville on Friday night — it just happened to be the four that mattered most.
The Falcons trailed by a bucket with single digits to play — they had yet to lead in the half. A missed three-pointer looked as if it would spell disaster, but Cole VonHandorf converted a layup after an offensive rebound to save the game with an 87-86 win.
“There’s a lot of new faces — we just want our guys to play hard, get after it and disrupt things defensively, and just know our strengths,” Koenig said.
The Falcons will host Slippery Rock at 8 p.m. tonight in the nightcap on Day 2 of the Joe Retton Classic. They enter receiving national votes.
“The PSAC is a good conference, and these are the teams that we’re going to have to beat — they’re important games in the region, and it’s a big challenge but an incredible opportunity. It’s not make or break but this is a very important opportunity for the program,” Koenig said.
Follow Joe Smith on Twitter @joesmithwrites.