Two-time defending Atlantic Region champion West Liberty (32-1) shot 68 percent from the floor in the second half to earn its fourth consecutive trip to the Atlantic Region championship game with a 100-77 blowout win against No. 4-seed Fairmont State (23-9).
The Falcons never led but kept things close for most of the first half only to see Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers score 15 of the final 18 points to take a 42-27 halftime lead.
West Liberty picked up where it left off when play resumed and pushed the lead out to 72-51 on a Shawn Dyer free throw at 9:57 before Fairmont State responded with a final surge.
The Falcons, WVIAC regular-season and tournament runner-ups, took off on a 15-4 run during the next two minutes with Stevie Browning’s 3-pointer at the 7:47 mark, cutting the lead to 76-66 and bringing the Fairmont State fans to their feet.
The Black and Gold let the air out of that rally with a 16-1 burst over the next three minutes. Chris Morrow’s fast break layup on a feed from Atlantic Region Player of the Year Alex Falk gave WLU its largest lead of the night at 92-67 and put the game out of reach with 4:30 to go.
Falk’s game-high 21 points paced a balanced attack for the Hilltoppers. Morrow finished with 17 points despite sitting out much of the first half with foul problems while C.J. Hester just missed a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Tim Hausfeld added 13 points, Dyer finished with a dozen and Cedric Harris knocked down 8 points and handed out a game-high 7 assists.
Malik Stith had 18 points while Brendan Cooper added 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for Fairmont State, which suffered its fourth loss of the season in as many tries against West Liberty.