"I told the guys, if we lose then we're done," Fairmont State Men's Basketball Head Coach Jerrod Calhoun said. "We needed 40 minutes. We had to play a good 40 minutes. But we had to win the game."
"It's a must-win because our backs are against the wall. We just had to come out ready for war. That's all we had to do," Falcons freshman forward Thomas Wimbush said.
Fairmont State had not beaten West Liberty since the year 2008. Before that, the Falcons had not beaten the Hilltoppers at home since the year 2004. But on Saturday afternoon, Fairmont dug deep and pulled out the win.
The Falcons dominated West Liberty on the glass, out-rebounding the Hilltoppers 47 to 34. In addition, Fairmont out-shot West Liberty 49.2 percent to 38.8 percent.
It was a total team effort, in every stretch of the imagination. Fairmont State players and coaches agreed, they needed to come out with a win.
"We feel like our back is against the wall," Fairmont State senior forward Brendan Cooper said. "We're trying to make the tournament. I think we're in third or fourth place in the conference. So we're trying to win every last game this season."
"It's going to give us a lot of energy going into our next couple of games, knowing that we beat this team. But we've got to put it behind our backs and just go from here," Wimbush added.
After its win on Saturday, Fairmont State stood in sixth in the Mountain East Conference with an overall record of 16-8. With one home game remaining in its last four to end the season, the Falcons understand it's important to not only win out, but to advance deep in the conference tournament in order to secure a spot in the Division-II NCAA Tournament.
"This is definitely going to raise our spirits and hopefully we get momentum into our next game," Cooper said.
"But you know, we're a program on the rise. I said that last year. We've got great fan support here. We've got a great president that loves basketball and loves athletics. I thought our kids fed off the fans energy tonight," Calhoun said.
Fairmont State senior forward Brendan Cooper led the Falcons with 25 points and eight rebounds. Freshman forward Thomas Wimbush added 24 points and 13 rebounds, along with a variety of thunderous slam dunks.
There's no doubt the Falcons needed to beat West Liberty. But they understand there is plenty more work to be done in order to go dancing in the end.