WEST LIBERTY - The West Liberty women's basketball team broke open a close game with an 11-0 run midway through the second half and pulled away to a 67-56 against against Ohio County rival Wheeling Jesuit in a mutual regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at the ASRC.
''I'm a little concerned that we've struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm over the last week or two,'' WLU coach Lynn Ullom said, ''but if I'm going to be disappointed, I'd rather be disappointed after a win.''
It was the 14th consecutive victory in the cross-county rivalry for the Hilltoppers (19-7 overall, 17-5 West Virginia Conference) but the Cardinals (8-18, 5-17) didn't go down without a fight.
Photo by Matt Watson
West Liberty's Liz Flowers works the ball into the lane.
Neither team led by more than four points for the first 30 minutes in a defensive struggle which featured 14 ties and 13 lead changes.
Wheeling Jesuit matched its largest lead, 41-38, when Jaila Bryant dropped in a pair of free throws at the 12:49 mark of the second half but that's when West Liberty finally began to hit its stride.
Hillary Southworth, the nation's second-leading scorer at 24.4 ppg., had been held to eight points in the first half but found the range with a pair of short jumpers to put the Hilltoppers ahead to stay, 41-40, as the clock ticked past the 12-minute mark.
West Liberty wasn't finished, however. Jordan Stacey kept the run going by dropping in two free throws after drawing the fourth foul on WJU standout Taneka Lewis.
Freshman Liz Flowers then brought the crowd to its feet by blocking a 3-point attempt at the other end of the floor and racing end-to-end for a layup and a 46-41 Hilltoppers lead.
After a Wheeling Jesuit miss, Southworth and Flowers came racing out of the backcourt on a 2-on-1 break. Southworth fed Flowers, who laid in the basket as she was fouled and capped the 11-0 run with a free throw to finish off the conventional three-point play.
The Cardinals' Jamie Sobczak stopped the bleeding with a 10-foot jumper but WLU's Jasmin Kiley answered with a 3-pointer for a 52-43 bulge with 8:41 to play.
Bryant got a short jumper to go but another conventional three-point play from Flowers gave the hosts their first double-digit lead, 55-45, with 8 minutes left and Wheeling Jesuit never threatened again.
''We've had too many unforced turnovers and made some poor decisions on both ends of the floor the past few games but we've been fortunate enough to come up with a big run in the second half and bail ourselves out,'' Ullom said. ''We had to wait a little while but it finally came.''
Southworth finished with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds while Kiley added 15 points off the bench. Flowers stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four blocked shots while Emily Blevins chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Lewis led WJU with 17 points. Bryant added 11 with Alex Anderson working the paint for 10 points and a dozen rebounds.
The Hilltoppers host Ohio Valley Monday night in a WVIAC Tournament first-round game. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the ASRC.