State women advance to semifinals
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you don't think West Virginia State and Fairmont State were similar women's basketball teams, all you had to do was check the first two games. Or, heck, you could've watched the first half of Thursday night's Mountain East Conference quarterfinal game at the Civic Center.
State won the first game by three and the second by one. At halftime on Thursday, State led but 36-32.
At the end of this one, though, the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets separated from the Falcons and won 71-59, advancing to Saturday's 2:15 p.m. semifinal game against top-seeded and highly ranked Glenville State.
"Both of our first games went down to the wire," said State coach David Smith. "Actually, they gave us the second one."
"This was nicer," said State's Lexy Carson, the MEC player of the year. "But it took us until late in the second half to do it."
Indeed, at 12:45 in the second half, State led FSU by just three points, 49-46. But in the tournament's Thursday nightcap, the Falcons' shooting started to nod off.
Meanwhile, Carson, who finished with 24 points, and Asia Greenleaf, who had 13, found success.
After a Greenleaf bucket stretched the lead to 60-49, Fairmont coach Steve McDonald called a timeout with 5:04 remaining.
It didn't help. A little over two minutes later, State had its largest lead of the game at 67-52. The best Fairmont could do after that was whittle it to 10.
"I think [FSU] got tired," Smith said. "We made some big shots and they missed shots — and they're one of the best-shooting teams in the conference.
"We got to the free-throw line, hit some and made some shots."
Smith also pointed to his team's man-to-man defense and Greenleaf's contribution. The 6-foot-1 senior forward gathered eight rebounds to go with her scoring output.
"We had three players sitting out some of the first half with foul trouble and were still leading," Smith said. "I thought that was a good sign."
Another good sign was State's success in the paint. The Jackets were winning the battle there 24-12 at the half. Makenzie White, the former Scott High standout and, briefly, WVU player, had 11 to help Fairmont stay close.
In the second half, though, it all fell apart for the Falcons.
Almost all of the halftime and final statistics were similar, including free throws, rebounds, assists, turnovers, blocks and steals.
But the glaring difference was shooting percentage. After shooting 35.7 percent in the first half, Fairmont connected on just 24.2 in the second and finished at 29.5 percent.
State, meanwhile, pounding the paint, connected on 46.6 percent for the game. The Jackets only attempted four 3-point goals (making one), while Fairmont took 17 and made just two (11.8 percent).
"We didn't give up," Carson said. "We had to dig and we did. We played with heart. We pushed each other."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.