Hot-Shooting West Liberty Wins Easily

WEST LIBERTY – When West Liberty gets the opportunity to play its style of basketball, the run-and-gun variety, it normally doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand when the Hilltoppers get rolling.

Monday night was more of the same for the NCAA Division II’s No. 1-ranked team as Point Park, which is also a fan of up-tempo basketball, paid a visit and found out that it might like to run, but it is definitely no match for Coach Jim Crutchfield’s team.

Senior Chris Morrow paced six double-figure scorers with 22 points and junior Cedric Harris added a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists as West Liberty steadily pulled away for a convincing 136-84 victory against the Pioneers, the Hilltoppers’ 89th victory in its last 92 games at the ASRC.

The victory moves Crutchfield’s team to 5-0 with a trip to Parkersburg and a West Virginia Conference contest with Ohio Valley next up at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

West Liberty was able to spread the wealth a little Monday with all 12 players seeing action in both halves, and all denting the scoring column. Six players established season-highs in point totals while seven eclipsed their year-to-date scoring averages.

In the four previous games that Crutchfield’s teams have faced Point Park, they have won by an average score of 130-87, which was very similar to Monday’s final tally.

”Point Park plays like we like to play,” Crutchfield said. ”They are a good team and win a lot of games, but we really like to play the up-tempo game and so do they. This was a very good pace for us (Monday) and it gave us the chance to get all 12 players into the game quickly, and in both halves.”

Veteran coach Bob Rager, who had two players, including a starter and his sixth man, sitting out after getting ejected from the Pioneers’ last game, watched his team stay close for the initial two minutes at 5-3. That is before Harris hit four consecutive shots, and a then hit a fifth in a row after a Point Park hoop that pushed the margin quickly to 15-5.

The Pioneers (5-2) were still down 27-23 midway through the first half when West Liberty began adding to its totals. In the blink of an eye it was an 11-point margin at 34-23 followed shortly thereafter by a 17-point bulge at 48-31 with 5:50 still to play in the half.

Following a 67-47 count at the break, a 13-5 blast pushed the score to 80-52 and the rout was on. With the score at 97-72 with 8:50 showing, the Hilltoppers went on another spurt, this time outscoring their guests by a 23-2 margin and the score ballooning out to 120-74. After a Point Park hoop the hosts went on another mini-burst, this time an 8-0 run to put the lead over 50.

”Slowly but surely we began pulling away,” Crutchfield said. ”I thought that having fresh bodies on the court helped and did a good job of wearing them down. We had a few runs, but at times they were just too tired to get back and only had two or three guys on defense.

”We also passed up a lot of shots, I think because guys were too open and just a little reluctant to take them. But I was glad to see the 3s start falling in the second half. Chris Morrow had a nice game, but he is not used to being left that open and he wasn’t doing much until he decided to start shooting.

”Another key was that we shared the ball very well, and when you have two guards who combine for 18 assists and only two turnovers (Harris and Wheeling Park graduate Bubby Goodwin), that is a big help and very good.

”For the most part we are playing good right now, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

Freshman Seger Bonifant added 21 big points off the bench for West Liberty while Alex Falk had 17, Keene Cockburn 16 and Shawn Dyer 11. Falk also pulled down a team high nine rebounds. Jimmy Taylor led Pioneers with 22 while Babatunde Somoye added 20 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.

West Liberty shot more than 52 percent for the game, a stat that is even more impressive by the fact that the Hilltoppers took 107 shots in the contest. They also drained 17 3-pointers, to just seven for their guests.