Lady ‘Cats’ season comes to an end with 66-56 quarterfinal loss to Fairmont State

By Duane Cochran for
 Top-seeded and Mountain East Conference regular-season champion Fairmont State used a very workmanlike effort Thursday night to defeat ninth-seeded West Virginia Wesleyan, 66-56, in the quarterfinals of the annual MEC Women’s Basketball Tournament here at WesBanco Arena.

The victory was the eighth in a row for the Falcons and improves them to 24-5. Fairmont will play in the semifinals Saturday at noon against fourth-seeded University of Charleston, which eliminated fifth-seeded Wheeling Thursday evening, 62-60.

“I’ve said all year I love how much heart our team plays with,” Fairmont State coach Stephanie Anderson said. “I think they wanted it so bad that at first we had to learn to just relax and play.

“I was extremely proud of them for the way they bounced back tonight, handled runs, made tough shots when they had to and got defensive stops when we needed them.

“I want to congratulate (Wesleyan coach) Brett (Vincent) and his team. I think he’s done a fantastic job with this group. They play extremely hard and execute very well. They gave us all they had for 40 minutes. They made us fight and made us earn it.”

Fairmont raced to a 12-2 lead in the game’s first six minutes to set the tone as Wesleyan struggled to find its shooting touch. Eventually the Falcons led by as many as 13 late in the second quarter before settling for a 10-point, 35-25 advantage at the half.

In the final two quarters Fairmont never led by more than 11 and never allowed the Bobcats to get any closer than five.

“It was a well played game on both sides, although we didn’t play real well to start,” Vincent said. “A lot of that had to do with them. They’re pretty good. They’re physical and aggressive and they have a lot of experience.

“Once we settled in we played better and gave ourselves a chance. The bottom line is they’re just better than we are. They’re better than a lot of people.”

Wesleyan’s Daveona Hatchell, who finished with 12 points, seven boards and four assists, agrees.

“They’re a hard team to match up with,” Hatchell said. “When you play them you almost have to play perfect. You have to dot your I’s and cross your T’s.

“We tried to battle all night. Take away that first quarter and we’re in it with a chance to win.”

Fairmont led 51-42 after three periods but the Bobcats opened the fourth with a quick 4-0 spurt to pull within five at 51-46. However, on this night any time Wesleyan made a threat FSU had an answer. Leslie Huffman, Alyssa DeAngelo and Aaliyah Bruney all scored on back-to-back-to-back driving layups to quickly push the margin back to 11 and for all intents and purposes the contest was over.

Fairmont scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, nine of which came from Huffman, who led the Falcons with 19 points.

“I had no idea I had that many points out of our last 15,” said Huffman with a laugh. “I just think in certain pressure situations so many teams are going to focus on Katie (Darnell) and Alyssa (DeAngelo) so much that it provides others on our team with opportunities. Tonight that was the case.

“My teammates did a good job of finding me and letting me show what I can do.”

Fairmont also got 13 points and seven rebounds from Darnell, 11 points from DeAngelo and six points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three blocks from Jalen Gibbs.

Wesleyan, which closed out its season with a 10-17 record, improved by five wins over last year and made its first MEC Tournament appearance this year since 2021.

The Lady Bobcats got a game-high 25 points from Emma Witt. She also grabbed eight rebounds. In addition, Wesleyan got six points and a game-high 16 rebounds from Desiree Roy.


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