WLU Stunned In Overtime

Photo Provided by West Liberty Athletics West Liberty’s Dan Monteroso goes up for a jump shot over a Charleston defender during Saturday’s game.

CHARLESTON – Five years after the birth of the Mountain East Conference, the regular-season men’s basketball champion still hasn’t left the conference tournament with the top hardware. That was assured Saturday night at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum as Charleston rallied from a 23-point first-half deficit to stun top-seeded West Liberty, 95-93, in overtime.

The Hilltoppers (26-3) have never lost to the Golden Eagles (18-12) during regular-season MEC action, but are 0-2 during postseason play against Dwaine Osborne-coached teams.

“Congrats to Dwaine and Charleston,” WLU coach Ben Howlett said.

“They have gotten a lot better as the season has gone along.

“They were down 23 and they never showed any signs of quitting.”

West Liberty led 49-26 when Dalton Bolon completed a four-point play. However, Charleston closed the half on an 11-0 run to get it back to a manageable 52-41 deficit at the break.

“I told the kids at halftime that we had just cut a lead in half against one of the best teams in the country,” Osborne said. “I am so proud of the resiliency of my kids.

“It’s important in every game to be efficient offensively, but especially against West Liberty. At our place we were down five with seven minutes to go and then they hit us with a 22-4 blackout.

“That wasn’t from seven minutes until the end of the game, that was in three minutes.”

Bolon scored 21 in the first half, but only took five shots and scored two in the second half as the UC defense locked down.

“Give Charleston credit, their defense picked up,” Howlett said. “And it wasn’t just against Dalton, it was against everybody.

“This game is on me and nobody else. I got a little crazy with substitutions at the end of the first half.”

The Golden Eagles’ run extended to 16-0 after halftime before Eric Meininger scored inside to make it 54-46 in favor of the Hilltoppers. That started a 14-4 WLU burst that got it back out to a comfortable, 66-51 advantage.

However, Charleston countered with an 8-2 run and eventually got the lead, 80-79, when Kier Anderson buried a 3-pointer from the wing.

“If we go back and look at the film, it wasn’t good enough,” WLU senior Dan Monteroso said. “Looking at these stats, I was assigned to guard Anderson and he scored 30 points.

“It starts with me.”

Monteroso knotted the game at 80-80 by going 1 of 2 at the line and then took a lob from Meininger and put it home to make it 82-80 Hilltoppers. But the teams traded buckets down the stretch before Anderson drilled another 3 to get it all even at 86-86.

West Liberty had two chances to win it in regulation but Monteroso was tied up on the first and it was unable to get another shot up before time expired.

In overtime, Charleston big man LaMont McManus took over, scoring six of his 17 points. The Golden Eagles gained the lead for good on a free throw by Ke’Andre Gibson.

West Liberty had two chances to win it, but a pair of 3-point attempts by Jordan Watson were off the mark.

The loss assures the Hilltoppers will not host the Atlantic Regional, though that doesn’t worry Howlett.

“We are really good on the road,” Howlett said. “Sometimes I think we’re actually better on the road.

“And when you have players like Dan (Monteroso) and Dalton (Bolon), sometimes those players refuse to let you lose.

“I can promise you we will be ready to go.”

Monteroso led the Hilltoppers with 29 points, giving him 69 in two games. He added nine rebounds. Bolon scored 23 and Brandon Smith was solid with 18 points.

Seth O’Neal finished with 15 for the Eagles. Jordan Smith checked in with 11.