#1 Glenville State def. #4 Fairmont State, 74-70
WHEELING, W.Va. – The battle between the two hottest teams in the Mountain East Conference was indeed just that – an epic battle.
In the end, top-seeded and fourth-ranked Glenville State used a tenacious final 20 minutes of play Saturday afternoon to overcome a lackluster first half and record a hard-fought 74-70 victory over fourth-seeded Fairmont State here in the Women’s MEC Basketball Tournament at WesBanco Arena.
“It wasn’t pretty, but anytime you can get an ugly win in March it’s okay,” GSU coach Kim Stephens said. “They did a phenomenal job on defense. We took some rushed shots and some bad shots, but it was because their defense made us. When we did have a rare open look at a three we rushed it because they were so few and far between. Again they did a great job on defense. That’s a good basketball team. They’re a different basketball team than the last time we played them. They haven’t lost since then and I don’t think most of those games were close.
“I was really happy with our second half. We continued to grind it out, let our defense fuel our offense and finished the game.”
The win was the Pioneers’ 13th in a row and improved Glenville State to 28-2. The defending national champions will play in the MEC Tournament title game for the fifth consecutive season Sunday at 2 p.m. against the third-seeded University of Charleston (23-7).
The Pioneers, however, have not won the tourney title since 2020. GSU has won four tournament championships – more than any other school in the MEC.
Charleston, on the other hand, has won the last two tournament championships with victories over the Pioneers.
Fairmont State saw its nine-game winning streak snapped in the loss. The Falcons fell to 23-9 and have slim hopes to receive an at-large berth in the upcoming NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional. FSU was ninth in the latest regional rankings. They will find out their fate Sunday evening.
“I think our team plays with a lot of heart,” Fairmont coach Stephanie Anderson said. “I was extremely proud of our girls. I thought they fought from start to finish.
“I hope our season isn’t over. We’d love to have the chance to play another game.
“Glenville is a great team. You give them a minute and that’s all they need.”
Actually, the Pioneers needed the first 1:36 of the third quarter to change the game’s complexion. In the first 20 minutes, FSU held Glenville to a season-low 28 points. The Pioneers shot just 20 percent (7-of-35) from the field in the first two quarters, including a miserable 1-of-10 from 3-point range. GSU started the game by missing its first 14 shots, but Fairmont was only able to build a 10-0 lead during that span.
“We hadn’t made a shot and I look up and we’re only down 10,” Stephens said. “I didn’t panic and our team didn’t panic. I knew eventually we’d turn things around because that’s how much confidence I have in these kids as players.”
Despite Glenville’s poor start Fairmont was only able to build a big lead of 12 midway through the second half and by the break was holding a seven-point, 35-28, advantage.
In the first 1:36 of the second half, GSU turned the Falcons over six times and used those miscues to spark an 8-0 run and take its first lead of the game at 36-35. After that, it was closed until the end.
Another huge factor in Glenville’s win was the team’s work on the offensive glass in the game. The Pioneers pulled down a whopping 30 offensive rebounds, including 16 in the second half which led to 15 second-chance points in the last two quarters.
“We knew how important this game was to us and everyone contributed on the glass for us.” said GSU’s Breanna Campbell, who finished with a game-high 31 points, 10 rebounds, and five steals. “In practice that’s what coach always preaches – rebound the ball. At times this season, we struggled with that, but not today. That was big for us.”
Six of Campbell’s rebounds came on the offensive end and she scored 14 of her points in the final two quarters.
When Campbell wasn’t doing damage for GSU, Mickayla Perdue was. Perdue finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. She scored 12 of her points in the second half.
“My dad always told me defense wins games, but rebounding wins championships,” Perdue said. “Rebounding definitely helped us win this game.”
Glenville eventually built its lead to as many as seven early in the fourth quarter, but the pesky Falcons refused to go away. Fairmont cut the deficit to one three times in the final 4:39 but could never re-take the lead.
“Rebounding has been a focus for us all year because we’re a lot smaller than most teams we play,” said FSU’s Alyssa DeAngelo, who led the Falcons with 22 points. “Glenville is tough. They run it straight at you and if they miss there’s going to be long rebounds. At times we just couldn’t get to those. A lot went over our heads. It was frustrating, but there’s not much you can do.”
Fairmont also had to battle foul trouble for much of the game and the loss of key reserve Leslie Huffman who played just 17 seconds in the first quarter before rolling her ankle.
Fairmont, which made its first semifinal appearance since 2018, got 19 points and eight rebounds from Jalen Gibbs and 13 points from Jertaya Hall.
The Falcons’ 23-win season was their first since 2012-13.