Senior Malik Smith came to Fairmont from St. John’s
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Transfers don’t have a good reputation when it comes to those that move from place to place to play basketball.
Too many of them don’t turn out to be classroom models. Or even helpful on the court to the teams where they move.
Fairmont point guard Malik Smith was an exception to the general run of transfers doing little in their new homes.
Smith came to Fairmont from St. John’s of the Big East conference. He’s a senior, playing his only season with the Fighting Falcons.
On Saturday, he was guileful and full of points and leadership as Fairmont weathered Shepherd’s second-half charge to get a 93-89 win at the vocal and jammed-with-fans Butcher Center.
Stith’s end-of-game contribution, as directed by first-year Coach Jerrod Calhoun, lifted Fairmont to the important WVIAC win.
Shepherd, which had trailed by 12 points at halftime, had climbed all the way back through a spirited second half and managed to make it an 89-89 game with Marcus Pilgrim’s two free throws with 40 seconds remaining.
Calhoun had Stith waste most the clock. And then he called a timeout. The middle of the floor was cleared of Fairmont players as the 5-foot-10 Stith worked against his defender. He got into the lane. Penetrated past the foul line. And put up a contested jumper that drew iron but then rolled through, giving the Falcons a 91-89 lead with only 4.5 seconds left.
After a Shepherd timeout — one of two the Rams had left — the planned play went awry with a long pass being stolen by the Falcons.
Stith played 39 minutes in the 40-minute game. He was 9-of-14 from the field, made all three of his free throws, had four assists, and scored 21 points as Fairmont improved to 11-4 overall and 9-2 in the league.
It was former Martinsburg High player Isaac Thornton who led the Falcons in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-13 from the field and 3-for-3 from the foul line. Thornton also played 39 minutes. Reserve Chase Morgan scored another 15 points as Fairmont was extended to the limit even though it made 65 percent of its field goal attempts and 15-of-16 free throws.
On Shepherd’s side, Brantley Osborne had 19 of his 25 points in the second half as the Rams made steady progress toward the 12-point Fairmont halftime lead, which was at a troublesome 54-42.
Fairmont went 20-for-28 (71.4 percent) from the field in the first half.
Shepherd’s Chad Moore had been mostly silent in the opening half, but he had nine points after intermission to reach 13 in all. Sidney McCray added 17 badly-needed points in 20 mninutes, while Morgan McDonald was back after missing the previous game to add his 13 points and Pilgrim likewise had 13 points in his 22 minutes off the bench.
The Rams went 16-for-19 at the foul line and outrebounded Fairmont, 31-25.
But Stith’s twisting and well-guarded eight-footer in front of the basket was the game-decider at the very end. The Big East transfer made a good impression, where so many others who have changed schools haven’t done so.