FAIRMONT — Fairmont State escaped an all-time scare by the thinnest of margins on Saturday at Alderson Broaddus, as the Falcons survived a desperation fadeaway 3 by the Battlers’ David Shriver just before the buzzer to avoid what would’ve been a brutal letdown loss.
Fairmont State ultimately nabbed a 79-78 victory over Alderson Broaddus to leave Philippi with its sixth straight win, but the Battlers took the Falcons to the absolute wire as they nearly pulled off a historic 19-point comeback over the game’s final seven-and-a-half minutes. The Falcons (10-2) only outlasted the Battlers (6-6) for good when Shriver missed a potential game-winning 3-point attempt off an ABU sideline-out-of-bounds play with 2.9 seconds left.
Shriver’s off-balance, highwire attempt from deep, which ended up missing everything as an air ball, served as the finale of what was a gutsy and improbable rally from the Battlers, who still trailed the Falcons by 11 points at 79-68 with 2:07 left in the game. But over those final two minutes and seven seconds, Fairmont State went scoreless, while the Battlers reeled off a 10-0 spurt; the ABU run was powered by a string of seven consecutive points from Christian Miller-Cardwell, including an and-one finish, as well as a corner 3 in transition by Zach Simpkins after Miller-Cardwell made an incredible block off the glass to turn back what looked like a guaranteed layup for Fairmont’s Cole VonHandorf.
Simpkins’ 3 sliced Fairmont State’s lead to 79-78 with 40 seconds left, but after Fairmont’s Isaiah Sanders missed a midrange jumper out of a timeout, the Falcons got the final stop they needed at the other end to seal the win.
Sanders scored a game-high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3, to lead Fairmont State, as the Falcons’ junior forward also went over 1,000 points for his college career. Sanders has now scored 56 points combined in the Falcons’ past two games, doing so on 17-of-28 shooting, including a blistering 10-of-16 from deep.
“I’ve just worked harder on (shooting). During the summer, that was one thing I really worked on in my game a lot was my 3-pointer, because I know last year it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been,” Sanders said after Wednesday’s win over Notre Dame in which he scored a career-high 31 points. “That’s just hard work, that’s just the result of hard work.”
“His decision-making has just gotten really good,” Fairmont State coach Tim Koenig said of Sanders last week. “People know he can really drive it, so you get (defenders) closing out short and he’s getting a lot of good, clean looks. The kid is just making smart decisions; when he’s open, he’s shooting it and he’s not forcing the play, he’s just letting it come.”
Along with Sanders’ 25 points on Saturday against ABU, Fairmont State got another 21 points from senior leader and guard VonHandorf. VonHandorf, who shot 7-of-18 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line, also tied for the team lead with six rebounds, as multiple of his seven field goals were off either hard-nosed putbacks or gritty finishes on drives and cuts into the paint.
Dale Bonner recorded 15 points for Fairmont, offsetting a trying 5-of-17 shooting performance with five made free throws. Bonner also dished a team-high six assists and tallied five rebounds. Zyon Dobbs scored 10 points and Przemyslaw Golek scored eight points, while both grabbed six rebounds, as the Falcons had just five players score in the game.
Fairmont State was without starting center and leading rebounder Seth Younkin on Saturday, with Dobbs getting the start in his place alongside Bonner, VonHandorf, Sanders and Golek. Younkin was on the bench with the team, but he was not dressed.
Alderson Broaddus, meanwhile, was missing four players Saturday, including three starters in KJ Walker, Vincent Smalls and Tahleik Walker. Still, the Battlers refused to fade, rallying first from an early 12-2 deficit before nearly erasing the 19-point hole down the game’s stretch run.
Miller-Cardwell scored a team-high 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting for ABU to go with nine rebounds and three assists in 28 total minutes. Simpkins made the most of his starting chance in the wake of ABU’s missing starters, as the sophomore forward out of Winfield High School, scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-7 from 3, and recorded four rebounds in 37 minutes.
Justin Sylver came off the bench for the Battlers to chip in another 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting, including 2-of-2 from deep, in 12 minutes of action, while Shriver recorded a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Fairmont State will remain on the road Monday when it travels to Notre Dame College for a 6 p.m. tip in South Euclid, Ohio. Fairmont just defeated Notre Dame 94-84 on Wednesday at Joe Retton Arena.