WVC women's basketball: Fairmont State wins tournament title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fairmont State University women's basketball Coach Steve McDonald wanted the focus to be strictly on his team, and not on Kaitlin Snyder's quest to become the school's all-time leading scorer.
While Snyder received her fair share of attention for closing in on a mark that was set in 2005, her team managed to maintain enough focus to secure their third West Virginia Conference Tournament championship, 65-54 over Seton Hill (19-13).
It's the third title since 2008 for Coach Steve McDonald and the Falcons (23-9). It also earned the Falcons a spot in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region. Glenville State, which was upset in the quarterfinal round by Charleston, came into the tournament ranked 12th in the USA Today Division II Poll and is expected to receive a bid when they're given on Sunday, March 10.
Snyder - the former Sissonville High School All-Stater - became the school's all-time leading scorer. She finished with 18 points, giving her 2,047 career points. The previous record-holder was Kristen Gattuso, who set the record from 2001-05. Gattuso's cousin, Katie Gattuso, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for the Griffins.
"It's amazing," Snyder said of winning the conference title. "Who wouldn't want to end their senior year like this? It's much more memorable than my freshman year. The team that we have is outstanding. I don't think you can say any team in this conference has more team chemistry than us. To go out with a team like this is phenomenal."
Snyder, voted the tournament's most valuable player, finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
However, it took a late run for Fairmont to secure the victory.
Seton Hill led 36-30 with 13:27 remaining, but the Falcons went on a 12-0 run. Emily Lohr scored on a layup and a 3-pointer, before Hallie Gunnoe scored seven consecutive points for a six-point lead.
A Hailey Garrett jumper and layup by Snyder increased the lead to eight. Seton Hill didn't get any closer than six the rest of the way.
Seton Hill held a seven-point lead at halftime behind Paige Alviani, who was just 1-of-7 from 3-point range but had scored 11 points. Alviani finished the game with 18, but could manage only a 1-of-10 effort from long range after a 3-of-4 effort from 3-point and 19 points in the semifinals.
"Number 23 (Tiffany Nicholson) was playing great defense one me," Alviani said. "She was challenging every shot I got, so give her credit."
Also, in the first half, Snyder struggled to score. After hitting Fairmont's second and eighth basket of the game, she missed her first three shots before scoring a layup with 8:24 left. She scored 11 points over the next 8 minutes. Snyder broke the scoring record on a free throw with 3:27 left.
As Fairmont State took over, Seton Hill struggled to score.
Katie Gattuso had 13 points and eight rebounds, but couldn't match the success she had against the Griffins in Fairmont when she had 21 points and 10 boards.
"Some teams give you a shot and some teams give you a drive," Gattuso said. "They wanted to make somebody else beat them not me."
The Fairmont State victory spoiled Seton Hill's quest to win a women's basketball title before shuffling off to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. It also was the first appearance in a championship game for Seton Hill Coach Ferne Labati, the 1992 National Coach of the Year at Miami (Fla.).