Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked West Liberty went 6-for-6 from the foul line during the final 23 seconds of overtime Thursday night to hold off upset-minded Wheeling Jesuit, 93-89, before an overflow crowd at the McDonough Center.
Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (15-0, 11-0) had to overcome a 13-point
second-half deficit to hand the hard-luck Cardinals (6-8, 4-7) their
fifth straight loss – all coming by margins of 6 points or less. It
marked the first time all season that West Liberty had trailed at any
point in the second half.
the schools being so close, it's always a great game when we play these
guys," Crutchfield said. "Wheeling played really hard and shot the ball
extremely well, especially in the first half. I told our guys at
halftime that there is nothing like a comeback win and this was our
chance to get one."
shot a sizzling 54 percent (19-of-35) from the floor – including an
eye-popping 64 percent (9-of-14) from behind the 3-point arc in the
first half to take a 53-42 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Cardinals took their biggest lead of the night, 57-44, on an Andre
Harris layup in the opening minute when play resumed and kept the
Hilltoppers at bay until midway through the half.
Trailing 67-56 after another Harris layup with 9:05 to go, West Liberty finally began to find the range.
Bonifant drained a pair of free throws and followed up with a 3-pointer
to touch off a 14-2 Hilltopper spurt that produced West Liberty's first
lead since the game's opening minutes.
Hoehn drained a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner off a fast break
pass from Cedric Harris to cap the run and put the Hilltoppers up,
70-69, with just 3:49 left in regulation.
The teams traded leads down the stretch with a deep Shawn Dyer 3-pointer giving West Liberty a 77-75 lead with 1:31
to go. Andre Harris finished off an assist from Eric Seifert to knot
the score for WJU at 77-77 as the clock turned under a minute and
neither team scored again as the game went to overtime.
Hilltoppers never trailed in the extra frame. Hoehn opened the scoring
with a rebound hoop and Dyer – who scored all 13 of his points after
halftime to go over the 1,000-point mark for his career – added two more
free throws for an 81-77 lead.
The Cardinals forced ties at 81 and 83 but Cedric Harris put the visitors ahead to stay, 86-83, with a dagger of a 3-pointer at 1:32.
Harris, C.J. Hester and Dyer combined to hit all six of their free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the win.
see a lot of zone (defenses) so we work on that quite a bit,"
Crutchfield said. "I would have liked to see us attack the interior of
the zone a little more but I thought we were getting pretty good looks
for the most part. We had a few shots go in and out on us, especially in
the first half, but the bottom line is that we kept our heads up, kept
working hard on defense and got out of here with a win."
Hilltoppers – the nation's highest-scoring team – never did find their
shooting touch as they shot a season-low 38 percent (28-of-73) from the
floor to go along with a season-low 28 percent (12-of-43) from the
made the difference in the second half as the Cardinals cooled off to
40 percent (16-of-40) from the floor after intermission and missed their
last 17 3-point attempts.
led West Liberty with 22 points and 5 assists while Hoehn added 20
points off the bench with 5 3-pointers. Bonifant posted a double-double
with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Dyer's 13 points and C.J. Hester's
10 rounded out the double-figure scorers.
Jesuit got a game-high 26 points from Justin Fritts – 22 of them in the
first half – while Siefert added 22 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
The Hilltoppers hit the road on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game at Urbana.
X With 1,002 points, Dyer became the 45th member of West Liberty's 1,000-Point Club
X This was the Hilltoppers' 11th win in the last 12 games against Wheeling Jesuit
X Crutchfield improved his record against the Cardinals to 22-6
X West Liberty is 126-4 (.969) in its last 130 regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season