Gilmer Free Press

MEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Semifinals Recap

The Free Press WV

Glenville State 83, Fairmont State 69

When the Glenville State University women’s basketball team last played for a conference championship, Kim Stephens was completing her first season as an assistant coach, 2,500 miles away, at Sacramento State University in California.

Since that 2013-14 season Glenville—one of the dominant programs in the Mountain East Conference and prior to that in the West Virginia Conference—was finding ways to come up short in the postseason.

This season, Stephens’ second as head coach at her alma mater, the Pioneers are leaving little doubt.

Conference Player of the Year Paris McLeod scored 23 points and Glenville State closed the first period on a 15-2 run to earn its first MEC championship game since the league’s inaugural season in an 83-69 victory over Fairmont State (16-14) on Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.

The Pioneers will face the winner of Saturday’s Notre Dame-West Virginia State semifinal at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Glenville seeks its first tournament title since 2014 and is hoping to become the league’s second two-time tourney champion. Wheeling Jesuit won the tournament championship in 2016 and 2017.

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to ever play in a championship game,” said Stephens, a 2011 graduate of Glenville State and an alum of Parkersburg South, where she played for her father Scott from 2003-07. “Our goal is to win it. That’s been our goal since day one. I want it so badly for this team. I want them to be able to experience it.”

The Pioneers (29-1), third in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region and fifth in the national coaches’ poll, found themselves in a battle early when a Rachel Laskody basket resulted in the game’s third lead change and a 13-12 Fairmont advantage.

Senior guard Julie Bishop answered with Glenville’s first 3-pointer of the game for the final lead change. Fairmont didn’t score for the next 3:45 on a basket by MEC Freshman of the Year Sierra Kotchman.

“This game was a game,” said Fairmont State coach Steve McDonald, whose Falcons lost to Glenville by an average of almost 30 points in their first two meetings this season. “This was not a show up where the game’s over in the first five minutes or the first quarter. We were down 15 at the half and we lost by 14.

“They have a very good team, but this is a day I think we could have gotten them.”

Glenville kept up the pressure, extending its lead to 58-38 with 5:25 remaining in the third period, but the lead was back down to 14 two minutes later before another Bishop 3-pointer pushed the advantage back to 17.

Despite 23 turnovers, Stephens said the Falcons “had to have played very close to their game plan.

“That team has improved tremendously since the last time we played them. They’re well coached, play incredibly hard and are going to be very scary in the future.

Fairmont cut down their miscues by five since that 90-60 loss at home to the Pioneers on January 17.

They received a team-high 21 points from Kotchman, who added seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Senior Kelli Jo Harrison had 17 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in her final game at Fairmont State.

McLeod’s 23 led all scorers for the Pioneers. Emily Stoller’s 15 points helped Glenville, which used 13 players, 10 of whom played at least 15 minutes each. Kristin DesRocher had 10 points for the Pioneers.

Notre Dame 66, Glenville State 56

Second-seeded Notre Dame College suffered a pair of crucial losses early on here Saturday afternoon in the Mountain East Conference semifinals at the Charleston Civic Center, but it didn’t keep the resilient Falcons from recording a 66-56 victory over third-seeded West Virginia State.

The win, Notre Dame’s seventh in a row, improved the Falcons to 23-8 and puts them in Sunday’s 1 p.m. MEC Championship game against top-seeded and No. 5 ranked Glenville State. The 29-1 Pioneers eliminated fifth-seeded Fairmont State in Saturday’s other semifinal, 83-69.

It will be the second championship game appearance for both Glenville State and Notre Dame. The Pioneers won the inaugural MEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed in 2014 with a 74-50 victory over Charleston. Notre Dame, on the other hand, lost the 2015 championship game as the No. 6 seed, 76-55, to top-seeded West Liberty.

The Falcons faced adversity early Saturday as in a span of just 2:25 late in the opening quarter they lost both starting guard Marisa Finazzo and then backup guard Mackenzie Meckes to what looked to be severe knee injuries. Finazzo was the team’s assist leader, third-leading scorer (11.8) and played over 28 minutes a game, while Meckes played over 13 minutes a contest and averaged 4.8 points per outing.

“The extent of their injuries haven’t been confirmed yet. They’re still being evaluated, but we definitely knew they weren’t going to be able to finish the game today,” first-year NDC coach Lauren Macer said. “It’s nice our girls were able to come together. I thought it was great they were able to talk to each other, keep each other up and they did good jobs of refocusing on the game and on what we needed to do each time there was a dead ball or timeout.”

Senior forward Kim Cook, who posted her 11th double-double of the season finishing with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, says dealing with adversity is nothing new for the Falcons.

“Adversity is something as a team that we’ve really faced this season,” Cook said. “Before the season Jessie (Stout) got hurt and we were like ‘Oh no what are we going to do?‘ Then we found a way to get our mojo back without her and Maggie (King) got hurt during the season so we had to re-group again.

“We’ve been in those positions before. We’re such a close-knit team that if one of our players is not able to be out there we want to do it for them. We wanted to win this game so bad for them (Marisa and Mackenzie). They’re both such big parts of this team. I told Marisa we’re going to win this game for you.”

Notre Dame took the lead early and never relinquished it. The Falcons shot the ball well (43.1 percent from the field), rebounded it better (plus 13 on the glass) and answered every challenge the Yellow Jackets had to offer.

State, on the other hand, struggled all afternoon shooting. The Yellow Jackets finished just 18-of-64 from the field (28.1 percent), including a 9-of-36 (25.0 percent) showing from 3-point range.

“It was a tough day for us,” State coach Charles Marshall said. “This group fought, competed and did everything that I’ve asked, but today our shots just didn’t fall. When you shoot 28 percent from the field it’s going to be tough to win any game.

“I thought we had great intensity on the defensive end. We held them under their average for the year from a points standpoint, but we got outrebounded. We forced them to have 24 turnovers, so defense wasn’t the problem. We had opportunities. We just didn’t have looks at the basket and when we did we were hesitant because our shots weren’t falling early. That’s basketball. It’s March Madness and anything can happen. We came in playing good ball and our girls gave us a chance to get to the championship, but we just came up short.”

Notre Dame led 20-14 after one quarter and extended it to 37-27 at the half. The Falcons pushed the lead to 14 early in the third before State rallied to cut it to eight late in the period. However, NDC’s Seina Adachi nailed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to push the margin back to 11 heading to the fourth.

In the final 10 minutes the Yellow Jackets again got the deficit to eight early, but a quick 6-0 spurt by the Falcons extended it back to 14 with 5:54 to play and it never got below double digits again.

“It was very frustrating because we couldn’t gain any ground on them,” State’s Anna Ross said. “Like coach said we weren’t knocking down shots and when you don’t do that it’s tough to come back.”

Cook, who also had a season-high four blocked shots in the win, was joined in double figures for Notre Dame by Adachi, who finished with 17 points and Kyleigh Ramlow, who contributed 10.

Ross and Jordan led the Yellow Jackets with 13 points apiece. Alexandra Jackson finished with 12 points, four assists and three steals.

Notre Dame lost both regular-season meetings to Glenville State. The Pioneers won 84-69 in Glenville on Jan. 4and claimed a hard-fought 88-84 victory on the Falcons’ home court on February 08. Since the February 08 setback Notre Dame has won seven straight. GSC comes into Sunday’s title game riding a 28-game winning streak.

--> Sunday, March 04, 2018
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