Times West Virginian
WEST LIBERTY —
The reining West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Kaitlin Snyder turned in her best performance of the season in arguably Fairmont State’s biggest game of the year to date.
Snyder, FSU’s senior point guard, scored a season-high 31 points to help lead the league-leading Lady Falcons to a 72-63 victory over third-place West Liberty Thursday evening here at the ASRC.
The win, Fairmont’s sixth in a row and its 10th in 11 outings, improved the Lady Falcons to 11-3 overall and to 9-1 in the WVIAC. It also helped FSU secure its stronghold on first place in the league.
“Tonight was a true example of what all coaches and players want to experience every game and that would be team chemistry,” said Snyder. “In my four years at FSU that was one of the best team efforts I’ve ever been a part of.
“Because we know West Liberty is such a well-rounded team I think all of our mindsets were where they needed to be tonight.”
With several of her teammates in minor foul trouble Snyder was forced to take matters into her own hands in the first half and she responded to the challenge in fine fashion. She scored 21 of her game-high 31 points in the first 20 minutes to help FSU erase a late eight-point deficit in the opening half and take a 34-32 lead at the break.
“Tonight I played with confidence and allowed the game to come to me,” said Snyder, who also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and dished out a game-high four assists. “I focused more on executing the plays.
“When some of my teammates were in some foul trouble early I think we had other players who came off of the bench and filled in, in their spots really well. We were well prepared tonight.”
With starters Hailey Garrett and Briana Welch on the bench with two fouls in the opening half players like Alana George and Emily Lohr were called upon and filled in nicely for the Falcons.
Garrett then quickly picked up two more fouls in the first three minutes of the second half and was forced to sit nearly seven minutes. With FSU’s starting center on the bench West Liberty attacked Fairmont inside and found success. The Lady Hilltoppers erased a six-point deficit and opened a 46-45 lead with 13:35 left to play.
However, over the course of the next 5:48 Snyder, Garrett, who returned with 10:35 remaining and played the rest of the way, and Tiffany Nicholson keyed a 13-3 FSU run which gave the Lady Falcons a 58-49 lead with 7:27 left to play and control of the game for good. West Liberty would close to within five on two occasions in the final 3:16 but Fairmont was able to stifle any further rally by the Lady Hilltoppers.
“As good as Kaitlin played, and she certainly played a great game for us, I’m really happy with the defensive effort we gave tonight as a team,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “Briana Welch and Tiffany Nicholson were both excellent on defense. The 26 minutes Hailey Garrett gave us were absolutely huge and her offensive output in the second half was fantastic. And, Alana George was phenomenal for us coming off the bench. Both she and Emily Lohr did great jobs for us.
“I’m very pleased with our total team effort. Tonight I think our team actually fed off of Kaitlin and gained confidence as the game went on.”
Garrett finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Twelve of her points came in the second half, including eight in the game’s final 9:40. Nicholson chipped in 12 points, while Welch and Hallie Gunnoe contributed five apiece.
West Liberty, which fell to 9-5 overall and to 7-3 in the WVIAC, was led by Hillary Southworth’s 15 points. The league’s leading scorer, however, was held six points below her season average of 21.4. The Lady Hilltoppers also got 14 points and nine rebounds from Meghan Wiseman and 10 points from Liz Flowers.
FSU will be back in action Saturday when it visits Shepherd University for a 2 p.m. showdown at the Butcher Athletic Center in Shepherdstown.