West Liberty's Hillary Southworth (right) shoots over Fairmont State's Briana Welch during Friday's game at the Civic Center.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With 11 minutes remaining in the game and his team trailing by two points, a Fairmont State fan yelled, "It's Kaitlin time!"It certainly was.Kaitlin Snyder, the Falcons' senior all-conference guard, promptly drilled a 3-pointer and scored 14 of her team's final 24 points as Fairmont pulled away to a 71-63 victory over West Liberty in Friday's West Virginia Conference women's semifinals at the Civic Center.Fairmont trailed 46-44 when Snyder opened her barrage with a trey from the head of the key. Her fast-break layup 22 seconds later put the Falcons up by three, and her 7-for-8 free throw shooting in the game's final minute squelched any chance the Hilltoppers might have had at a comeback.
"Teams that win and advance [in tournaments] always have a go-to player," Fairmont head coach Steve McDonald said after the game. "They always put the ball in the hands of their All-Americans."McDonald also had high praise for sophomores Hailey Garrett and Hallie Gunnoe."They had great games today and are also good players as well," he said "We are not a one-person team. Just look at the stat sheet; we had five [players] in double figures."West Liberty had an opportunity to run away and hide from Fairmont early in the first half. The Hilltoppers led 18-9 at the half's midway point and appeared to be in control, but coach Lynn Ullom's team inexplicably lost its intensity."I'll give Fairmont credit," Ullom said afterward. "They were down 18-9. Their backs were to the wall, and they knew that if they didn't kill themselves to win, they're going home."For that however-many-minute stretch [afterward], they looked like varsity girls playing against junior-high girls. They got every loose ball, every offensive rebound. We're just not good enough to [have] that kind of lack of effort and still win a basketball game."Fairmont outscored West Liberty 22-9 in the half's final 8:18 and took a four-point lead into the locker room at halftime. The teams traded the lead three times early in the second half before Snyder's late heroics allowed Fairmont to pull away.The former Sissonville star led the Falcons with 20 points, 11 of them at the free-throw line, and also registered four assists and four steals. Garrett tallied her 12th double-double of the season with a 15-point, 11-rebound performance. Fairmont's other double-figure scorers were Briana Welch with 13, Gunnoe with 11 and Tiffany Nicholson with 10.West Liberty junior Hillary Southworth, this year's WVC player of the year, scored 26 points to take game-high scoring honors. Emily Blevins and Meghan Wiseman had 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Hilltoppers, who finished the season 21-8.Fairmont (22-9) will take on fifth-seeded Seton Hill in today's 1:07 p.m. championship game. Seton Hill topped the University of Charleston 61-49 in the other semifinal.Fairmont State defeated Seton Hill twice in the regular season, but both games were tight. The Falcons needed overtime to beat the Griffins 59-58 Jan. 7 at Fairmont, then won 72-71 Feb. 21 at Seton Hill.
Reach John McCoy at email@example.com or 304-348-1231.