High-level game goes to Fairmont
Unbeaten Fairmont’s 86-81 win over Shepherd was a high-quality and thoroughly enjoyable night replete with game-deciding impacts and athleticism all around.
The smallest player had the biggest impact on the outcome. Diminutive guard Jason Jolly — no more than 5-foot-5 standing on his tip toes — wore the star of the game medal after scoring 26 points, orchestrating much of the Fighting Falcon offense, and drilling two three-pointers in a matter of seconds when Fairmont held only a scant one-point lead.
Fairmont’s 23 successful free throws were impact enough to overshadow Shepherd’s 12 made free throws.
The team-wide athleticism of Fairmont was impact enough to trump Shepherd’s intensity, grit and fancy 54.5-percent shooting (30-for-55) from the field.
Jolly was surrounded by long and lithe bodies of teammates who were all quick, could run well, jump well and dunk whenever the occasion presented itself.
It was easy to see why the Fighting Falcons were 17-0 and ranked second in the country.
It was also easy to see how Shepherd had won four straight conference games, had a 10-6 record coming in and was stationed in fourth place in the 12-team Mountain East Conference.
Both teams pressed for much of the night and that presented opportunities for classic individual plays that were made throughout.
Jolly had Thomas Wimbush and reserve D’Ontre Stockman as his main wingmen, but Fairmont had a whole roster full of contributors on both ends of the floor.
Shepherd’s leading scoring on the season, Steffen Davis, was hardly noticed in the first half. Finding only a few scattered shots in the opening half, Davis and the Rams were behind only, 43-40, at the break.
Skyler Roman and reserve Gavin McTavish were Shepherd’s main threats in the early going.
Davis warmed up quickly in the second half . . . and did enough to score 20 points in the final reckoning.
Fuses were shortened by the close score and sometimes breakneck pace . . . and they were further shortened by two intentional fouls called on Shepherd and technicals whistled against both teams.
With just over 11 minutes remaining, Jolly’s two long-range field goals extended Fairmont’s lead to 66-59 and once the advantage was advanced to nine points, the Rams returned to their full court press.
Free throws began to take precedence. And Fairmont had most of them in their all-winning corner.
McTavish seemed to be everywhere Davis wasn’t concerning Shepherd’s late-game chances.
But Fairmont’s basketball bodies held the Rams at bay.
Fairmont’s leading season-long scorer, Matt Bingaya, had only eight points but with Shammgod Wells, Troy Cantrell and Trevor Andrew-Evans all scoring at least eight points no beats were missed by the Fighting Falcons.
“Impact” was the name of the game, and Jolly indelibly put his 5-foot-5 stamp on Fairmont’s 17th win.