No ‘I’ in This WLU Team

WEST LIBERTY – Alex Falk has all the hardware. The West Liberty senior has been recognized as both the West Virginia Conference and Atlantic Region Player of the Year, but even Falk can’t do it alone.

Just ask Bowie State’s Byron Westmorland, who was coming off a 38-point performance in the CIAA championship game entering the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Regional Tournament on Saturday night at West Liberty’s ASRC. Westmorland scored a team-high 19 points, but with a flurry of defenders running his way managed an 8-for-24 shooting performance.

Falk, on the other hand, fired in a game high-tying 20 as the Hilltoppers (31-1) shot 67 percent from the field on their way to a 114-82 blowout victory that affords them a fourth date with Fairmont State, at 7:30 tonight back at the ASRC. The big difference is Falk received 20 points of support from Shawn Dyer, another 19 from Chris Morrow, 15 from C.J. Hester and 10 off the right hand of Cedric Harris, all coming in the first half.

The best part about it, is that’s always the plan. That comes with the territory of having a second consecutive group of four 1,000-point scorers.

”We get a lot of awards and obviously Alex is getting a lot of great awards, but I know what we do as a team means much more to them than anything that happens individually, and that makes us better as a team,” Toppers coach Jim Crutchfield said. ”The thing I like the most about these guys, is they understand the team concept.

”Whether it be who plays well in a game or who is walking up here talking to the media. By the way, they’re not clamoring to get up here and talk to the media.”

No, they let their game do the talking. Not exactly what you would expect from a team that’s No. 1 in the country, and has been at different points each of the last three seasons.

”It’s good to be No. 1, but I don’t really think we buy into that,” Dyer said. ”We just go out there and play 40 minutes.”

According to their coach, every one of those minutes were good ones Saturday. That certainly includes the return of Harris, their point guard, from a separated shoulder that caused him to miss the conference tournament. In addition to his 10 points, Harris added five assists, three steals and turned the ball over only once in 16 minutes.

The Hilltoppers hadn’t played in two weeks, but it had been around a month since Harris had seen game action.

”It’s very difficult,” Harris said. ”It showed a couple days when I came back, I was throwing the ball away a lot.

”But a couple live practices and Coach Crutchfield staying with me really helped.”

So it’s ho hum on the hilltop. Another lopsided victory that lived up to or exceeded expectations, depending upon whom you speak with. Five more and West Liberty will be getting fit for national championship rings, which of course are the ultimate show of team accomplishment.

”That’s what we really stress in practice … we practice the way we play,” Hester said. ”Every day we go against each other and we have so many guys on the team that it’s like playing a game every day.

”I think that really helps us.”