The monkey no longer lives in Fairmont.
For the first time in 12 years and the first time in eight tries, Fairmont State’s men’s basketball team found a way to win in Charleston at the annual West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
The second-seeded Falcons used a high-energy effort and smothering defense to post their first quarterfinal-round victory since 2001 when they eliminated seventh-seeded Seton Hill University, 77-63, here Thursday afternoon at the Charleston Civic Center.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time in Fairmont,” said first-year FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, who is a student of the history of Falcons basketball.
This time of the year it’s all about advancing. Teams that rebound the ball, which we did a tremendous job of doing today because I think we were plus-16 on the glass, teams that play solid defense and teams that make easy baskets are going to advance and we’re just happy to advance.”
The win improved Fairmont, which was rated fifth in the latest NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Rankings, to 21-7 on the year. It also sets up a semifinal showdown Friday at 6:30 p.m. with third-seeded Alderson-Broaddus (20-8) at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. The Battlers advanced to Friday’s semifinals thanks to an 82-69 win over Glenville State Thursday.
FSU and A-B met just once during the regular season with the Falcons recording an 81-73 victory in Fairmont on Feb. 14.
Thursday, Fairmont State played inspired basketball. One week after suffering a 76-73 loss to Seton Hill late in the regular season, the Falcons got a shot at redemption and took full advantage of it.
“We were really excited to have the opportunity to play them again,” said FSU senior guard Isaac Thornton, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s win. “We hate losing, and we wanted another shot at them.”
Seton Hill, which was limited to just six two-point field goals in the game, used a barrage of early 3-pointers to open a 16-10 lead over the Falcons 10 minutes into the contest. The Falcons, though, amped up their defensive pressure against the league’s top defensive team and led by Thornton and senior point guard Malik Stith exploded on a 20-3 run over the course of the next six minutes to take control of the game for good at 30-19. FSU ended the first half holding a 38-24 advantage. The 24 points were the fewest scored by Seton Hill in the first half this season.
“Give credit to Seton Hill for being a good team,” said Stith, who led all scorers with a game-high 25 points. “That made us come out from the start and have the energy we needed to get the win. Sometimes we come out lackadaisical, but today we set the tone early and let people know we were here.
“We had some lapses here and there, but for the most part I think we gave great effort and we rebounded the ball very well. Championship teams rebound the ball and defend and we did that today.
“At this point all you can ask for is a great effort, and we got that today from everyone. You can’t worry about missing a shot or making a mistake here or there. You’ve just got to think about making the next play, playing hard and finding a way to win.”
In the second half Fairmont extended its lead to as many as 19 at 57-38 with 10:20 left to play before the contest turned into a foul fest and Seton Hill was able to edge closer. The Griffins, however, never got the lead below 11 points.
“Fairmont State was rock solid today,” said Seton Hill coach Tony Morocco. “They did a very good job against us. They’re a very good basketball team and a very aggressive team. They’re strong and physical and they took us out of a lot of what we wanted to run.
“I think that’s an NCAA Tournament team regardless of whether they win down here or not. They’re just that good.”
The Griffins’ Oliver McGlade who finished with 24 points, 18 of which came off of six 3-point field goals, agrees.
“Their pressure got to us,” said McGlade, who was the only Seton Hill player to reach double figures in the scoring column. “It wore us down. They’re probably the best defensive team in the league. Fairmont and West Liberty are both very good on defense.”
Fairmont limited Seton Hill to just 34 percent (16-of-47) shooting from the field for the game and out-rebounded the Griffins, 52-36. No fewer than 24 of Fairmont’s rebounds came on the offensive glass. FSU also forced 15 SHU turnovers.
Melvin Rhodes joined Stith and Thornton in double figures for Fairmont with 11 points and eight rebounds. The Falcons also got seven points and eight rebounds from Isaiah Hill.
FSU rolls, back in semis for first time since ’01
The monkey no longer lives in Fairmont.
Penguins rip Ottawa, move to conference finals
Eight playoff wins down, eight to go for Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
James Neal had a hat trick and the Penguins finished off the lifeless Ottawa Senators 6-2 on Friday night in Game 5 of the Eastern conference semifinals to take the best-of-seven series 4-1.
Burnett a hard-luck loser; Pirates fall to Brewers
The hard luck remains for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ A.J. Burnett.
Burnett gave up just three hits and two earned runs over seven innings but took the loss as the Milwaukee Brewers held on for a 2-1 victory Friday night.
Polar Bears vs. Golden Bears postponed to today
It’s a washout in Golden Bear country.
The Fairmont Senior-Oak Glenn Class AA regional final championship game has to wait another day.
The culprit? A toad strangler that dumped gallons of water on the field, which resulted into a muddy mess.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jarrod West treasures time with his family
It came along too late to do me any good, but today I want to offer a very warm thank you to Jarrod West, the one-time West Virginia University basketball hero.
WVU in eight-team Cancun Challenge field
West Virginia University’s basketball team will be in a field with seven other teams in the 2013 Men’s Cancun Challenge, played at the all-inclusive Aventura Palace resort near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Kansas pitcher Taylor shuts down Mountaineers
In its first game of pool play against Kansas at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, the West Virginia University baseball team was defeated, 7-2.
Bucs enjoy hockey sideshow after 4-2 win over Cubs
It was hard to tell whether the Pittsburgh Pirates were heading on a road trip or getting ready for a Stanley Cup playoff game after beating the Chicago Cubs 4-2 on Thursday for their fourth straight win.
Penguins looking to close out Senators in Game 5
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson isn’t quite ready for the traditional season-ending handshake.
Yet he knows if the Senators can’t find a way to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s coming soon.
Bell ready to make impact in Steelers’ backfield
Le’Veon Bell wants the ball in his hands. Always.
First down. Fourth down. First quarter or overtime. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back figures the best chance for his team to be successful is with the ball tucked under his right arm and his legs churning upfield.
Polar Bears set for Oak Glen today
Oak Glen is next on the menu for the Fairmont Senior baseball squad.
With the 11-0 win over Braxton County on Tuesday evening, and Oak Glen’s eight-inning 2-1 win over Ritchie County, the two teams find themselves squaring off against one another while fighting for a spot to play in the state tournament.
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