Fairmont has enough defense to trim Shepherd men
Fairmont’s attention to defense in the first half was enough to give it some room for error in the second half of its 64-60 win over Shepherd on Saturday at the Butcher Center.
The Falcons continually pressured the ball with their halfcourt defense and augmented their effectiveness with a sometimes-disruptive fullcourt pressure defense.
The attention to defense allowed the Falcons to hold Shepherd to just 26 first-half points and had Fairmont ahead, 38-26, at the break.
When the Falcons missed four straight free throws and saw the Rams increase the tempo and move the pace from one of halfcourt offenses to a more rapid flow, they still had a reservoir of points with which to protect their hard-won lead.
Shepherd had fallen behind, 6-0, and could never get the game tied or take a lead of any kind.
Fairmont advanced its lead to 24-11 and had limited the Rams to just 14 points with 6:49 left in the opening half.
The Falcons had only four turnovers in the first half.
When the pace was mostly the same in the first seven minutes of the second half, Fairmont was able to survive its shriveled scoring.
But when the tempo became more rapid and Shepherd became the aggressor, the Falcon lead shrank to only 53-51.
Sensing the newly-seen Shepherd threat, the Falcons scored the game’s next nine points in only 2:23 of clock time.
The pace continued to be a steady up-and-down one, and it was Shepherd scoring a rapid-fire seven consecutive points to draw within, 62-58. But time was drawing short and everything had to go right for the fast-closing Rams.
After he had a crowd-pleasing dunk, Shepherd’s Naim Muhammad missed a difficult dunk attempt after catching an alley-oop pass. Steffen Davis had a transition layup try blocked and Fairmont controlled the loose ball.
There was less than a minute to play.
Fairmont had survived a half where it scored only 26 points, and had completed its regular season with a 19-9 overall record and 16-6 record in the Mountain East Conference. Shepherd came close because it made 15-of-27 second-half field goal tries.
Shepherd had seen its season drift toward the break-even mark when it lost 10 of its final 14 games.
The Rams finally showed a 14-14 record and finished only 9-13 in conference games . . . and couldn’t be saved from a last loss by the double-figure scoring of Ryan McTavish and senior Austin Cunningham. Fairmont had a second-place finish in the conference and received double-figure scoring from Nick Harney (21 points), Jamel Morris, Caleb Davis and Thomas Wimbush.
Both teams went into the conference tournament this week — one with some positive momentum and the other trying to find the early-season road that had it with a 10-4 record at one time.