WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – No. 2 West Liberty locked up its third consecutive West Virginia Conference title in impressive fashion on Monday, blasting second-place Alderson-Broaddus 107-73 before a large and appreciative crowd at the ASRC.
With nearly two full weeks left in the regular season, coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (23-1, 18-0) mathematically eliminated the Battlers (17-6, 14-5) and the rest of the teams in contention by stretching the nation’s longest active winning streak to 21 games.
“It’s a little bit shocking to clinch a conference champion this early,” Crutchfield said. “But I think our guys were a little pumped up tonight. It was a big game with a big crowd and I think they really fed off that energy. We played some pretty good basketball tonight.”
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 2 West Liberty 103, Alderson-Broaddus 73|
|No. 9 MSU 80, No. 5 Tarleton State 75 3OT|
|No. 12 Shaw 94, Johnson C. Smith 74|
West Liberty hit the ground running from the opening tip and Alderson-Broaddus, which had held the Hilltoppers to a season-low 79 points in a hard-fought 79-72 loss in November, couldn’t keep up the pace.
The hosts needed less than 2 minutes to take their first double-digit lead of the night as they opened the game on a 16-2 run and they maintained that double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Alderson-Broaddus, a perennial Atlantic Region power, closed the gap to 50-36 at intermission and opened the second half with a Kurklin Bohanon basket but C.J. Hester and Tim Hausfeld answered with back-to-back 3-pointers for West Liberty and the rout was on.
The margin swelled as high as 37 points in the waning minutes as the Hilltopper reserves kept right on stroking after Crutchfield brought his starters off the floor to a standing ovation with more than 5 minutes remaining and another WVIAC championship safely tucked away.
“I don’t think anybody expected something like this after losing four 1,000-point scorers to graduation,” Crutchfield said. “But these guys have stepped up tremendously to answer that challenge. We’re getting to the point now where they’ve had enough time under their belts to get comfortable with each other and they’re starting to play together like a real West Liberty team.”
Chris Morrow led all scorers for the Hilltoppers with 27 points while C.J. Hester — the reigning WVIAC Player of the Week — and Cedric Harris each weighed in with double-doubles. Hester had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season while Harris had 15 points and a season-high 11 assists to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
Alex Falk rounded out the double-figure scorers with 12 points while maintaining his usual disruptive presence on the defensive end.
Casey Ainslie led four double-figure scorers for A-B with 19 points.
“We’ve had different guys step up for us every game,” Crutchfield said, “and tonight was no different. We’re definitely going to savor this conference championship but we realize there’s a lot more basketball to be played.”