Thornton drove to the hoop and hit a layup and was fouled, but missed the free throw to put Fairmont up 63-62. Former Winfield standout Adam Kline hit 1 of 2 free throws for A-B with 38 seconds left, providing the final 63-63 tally in regulation.
The Battlers still hang on to a shot at an at-large NCAA Division II tournament bid while Fairmont State (22-7) drastically improved its chances, win or lose today.
It wasn't quite the run-and-gun style of basketball the Falcons once played under Joe Retton but it was a victory the legendary WVC coach would be proud of.
Retton, whose teams claimed 12 regular-season league championships, eight conference titles and won 478 games, made a promise to Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun before the game, and Calhoun intends to hold Retton to that vow.
"We've talked about [not being in a title game since 1985] since April when I got hired," Calhoun said. "We wanted to win the league and fell a couple of games short so we felt like this was our new season and a chance to bring a championship back to hang a banner.
"These guys are setting the foundation for Fairmont State basketball again. We hadn't won a game down here since 2000-2001. I've got to go back and call Coach Retton as soon as I get back into the arena because he promised me if we got to title game he was going to drive down.What he did was remarkable and it's a fitting ending for the league to have Fairmont State back on top."
Brendan Cooper had team highs in points (19) and rebounds (seven) for Fairmont State while Malik Stith had 17.
Ainslie led five double-digit scorers for Alderson-Broaddus with 15 points followed by Kline with 14, Tatum and Kurklin Bohanan with 12 each and Roy Brown with 10. The Battlers accumulated a 45-30 advantage on the boards but turned it over 17 times compared to just nine for Fairmont and missed nine foul shots.
The Falcons (22-7) will meet No. 1 seed West Liberty in the title game at 3:40 p.m.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.