For Fairmont State’s men’s basketball team, the story this season has been an all-too familiar one.
Play hard for 40 minutes, but end up on the wrong end of the score when the final horn sounds.
Monday evening, West Virginia State paid a visit to the Joe Retton Arena and pulled out an 87-82 victory over the Falcons in a contest that wasn’t decided until the waning seconds.
State, which improved to 11-10 overall and to 9-8 in the West Virginia Conference, shot 54.5 percent from the field (30-of-55) and consistently burned the smaller Falcons in the paint where it hit several close-range baskets and held a decisive 45-29 advantage on the glass.
The Yellow Jackets also won the game at the foul line, where they connected on 20-of-26 attempts (76.9 percent), including 8-of-10 in the game’s final 45 seconds.
Fairmont State, which fell to 7-13 overall and to 5-11 in the WVC with its fifth loss in six games, shot 46.4 percent from the field (32-of-69), but once again turned in a lackluster performance at the foul line where the Falcons only managed to connect on 10-of-19 attempts (52.6 percent). Fairmont is now in 13th place in the 15-team conference.
“It’s hard because we all hate losing,” said FSU junior guard Isaac Thornton, who finished with a game-high 27 points, five assists, five steals and three blocked shots. “We know we’ve just got to stay positive. We’re at the bottom right now. This is one of the worst seasons we’ve had in a while. We’re not used to experiencing that here, but I truly believe that eventually good things are going to happen for us. I just feel like we’re so close, but we can’t quite get there.”
Senior guard Mike Hurd, who finished Monday with a career-high 17 points, agrees.
“It kind of feels like we’re trying to sprint up a mountain,” said Hurd. “It’s been such a struggle going through some of the things we’ve experienced this season. It would be real easy to sit here and blame someone or something else for our misfortune, but we can’t. Sooner or later I just feel like things are going to go our way — shots are going to fall and we’re going to make the plays we need to make on defense.
“Tonight we got good looks at shots, but some of them just didn’t go down and in a close game that tends to come back and haunt you. We’ve got six regular-season games left and hopefully it’ll come around soon for us.”
Steve Custis chipped in 17 points, six rebounds and five assists for FSU, while Chris Thompson contributed 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
State, on the other hand, placed six players in double figures in the scoring column led by Dustin Jones’ 19 points, 15 of which came off of 3-pointers. The Yellow Jackets, who halted a three-game losing streak with the win, also got 14 points from
David Ford, 13 points from Corey Bethea, 12 points from Qua’Darius Fewell and Robbie Lewis, and 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds from Delrico Lane.
Fairmont, which has lost seven games by seven points or less this season, will return to action Thursday when it visits Greensburg, Pa., for a 7:30 p.m. WVC battle against 10th-place Seton Hill University.