WVC men's basketball: Fairmont State tops A-B on last-second free throw
The most competitive men's basketball team to leave the West Virginia Conference and not join the Mountain East went out with a bang on Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Isaac Thornton made one of two free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining and a Casey Ainslie 60-foot heave bounced off the backboard as Fairmont State survived with a 75-74 WVC Tournament semifinal overtime victory over Alderson-Broaddus.
Second-seeded Fairmont (22-7) heads to today's 3:40 p.m. championship game against the winner of Friday's late contest between West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit.
Thornton, the former Martinsburg High School star, who finished off the Bulldogs' 2009 Class AAA state championship game with clutch free throws, didn't score in the first half on Thursday.
However, he finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists for Coach Jerrod Calhoun's team.
"It's a shame somebody had to lose, a lot of good players in that game," Calhoun said. "Coach (Greg) Zimmerman's a heck of a coach. I'm hoping they get into the NCAA Tournament."
The game ended on a controversial foul call as Thornton drove to the basket and went to the floor against the defense of Richard Lemon. Lemon's fifth foul sent him to the bench and Thornton to the line. Thornton made the first, but the second bounced off.
"I tell our guys at the end of the game, you have to get it to the rim and then you force the officials to make a call," said Calhoun, a former West Virginia University assistant. "I'd have to see the tape, but I think it was a foul."
When the buzzer sounded, Zimmerman stormed off the court right behind the officials, following them to their lockerroom.
"What should I tell my kids in the lockerroom," Zimmerman said. "Let the players decide the game. I got kids crying in the lockerroom. We've won and lost games at the buzzer. We. I don't think that happened tonight. We just want a fair deal and I don't think we got it."
Fairmont had chances to pull away, and, although the lead changed hands only twice in the second half and was only tied once during that time, Fairmont State led by seven.
Brendan Cooper led the Falcons with 19 points and seven rebounds. He also had just one turnover and three assists, playing all but two minutes.
Malik Stith, a former St. John's player, had 17 points, and Thornton finished with 14 points.
Ainslie had 15 points to lead a balanced attack for the Battlers. Former Winfield High School star Adam Kline had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Kurklin Bohanon and Malcolm Tatum had 12 apiece and Roy Brown added 10 while battling foul trouble.
While the Falcons play in the title game for the first time since losing the 1985 championship to W.Va. Wesleyan 72-66. This was the Falcons' first semifinal appearance since dropping a 73-68 decision to Charleston in 2001.
The Battlers will depart the WVC after winning four tournament crowns since 2002 and playing in six title games and reaching the semifinals 10 times during that period.
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