Concord Upsets No. 4 West Liberty
Late drought hurts Hilltoppers
ATHENS — Host Concord shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half and held off a furious West Liberty surge Wednesday night to pull off a 91-83 upset inside the Carter Center.
After briefly falling behind by double-digits in the early minutes of the second half, Coach Ben Howlett’s No. 4-ranked Hilltoppers (4-1) appeared to have weathered the storm when a driving layup by Pat Robinson made it a one-possession game, 58-56, as the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark.
The high-powered West Liberty offense chose that moment to go into an uncharacteristic drought, however, and the upset-minded Mountain Lions (3-2) took full advantage.
The Hilltoppers made only one shot from the floor over the next 4 ½ minutes and Concord scored 16 of the game’s next 21 points to open up a 74-61 lead with 5:30 remaining.
Owen Hazelbaker tried to stop the bleeding for WLU with a 3-point bomb but the Mountain Lions got back-to-back 3-pointers from Mohamed Bundu and Seth Brown to take their biggest lead of the night, 80-64, with just 4:16 to play.
But the Hilltoppers weren’t dead yet as a stepped-up defensive effort forced some key turnovers and ignited one final rally.
Robinson wrapped a pair of layups around a 3-point bomb to fuel the surge and two Dalton Bolon free throws capped a 14-0 spurt that pulled West Liberty within a basket, 80-78, at the 1:39 mark.
That was as close as WLU would come, however, as four straight empty possessions led to six unanswered Mountain Lion points and the hosts were able to close things out at the foul line.
On the night, Concord was 29-of-53 (55 percent) from the floor, 7-of-18 (39 percent) from the 3-point arc and 26-of-34 (77 percent) from the foul line. The Mountain Lions forced 17 West Liberty turnovers and held a 33-26 advantage off the glass.
The Hilltoppers were 28-of-63 (44 percent) from the floor but just 5-of-23 (22 percent) from the 3-point arc. They made 22-of-27 free throws (82 percent) and finished with just 8 assists.
Robinson led all scorers for WLU with 26 points with Bolon adding 17 and Hazelbaker contributing 10 points off the bench.
Johnson topped Concord with 25 points while Bundu had a huge game with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Brown rounded out the double figure scorers with 15 points.
The Hilltoppers will be back in action Saturday afternoon when they host Glenville State. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. inside the ASRC.
ATHENS — The West Liberty University women’s basketball team came out cold here Wednesday night and couldn’t battle all the way back as Concord claimed a 68-56 victory at the Carter Center.
Coach Kyle Cooper’s Hilltoppers (2-3) went just 1-for-15 from the floor in a nightmarish first quarter that saw the Mountain Lions (3-2) open up a whopping 19-2 lead.
The scrappy West Liberty squad spent the rest of the evening whittling away at the lead and had it down to 54-48 after a Karly McCutcheon 3-pointer with 2:22 to go.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Riley Fitzwater, Concord’s dominant 6-4 center, stopped the bleeding with a basket and a free on the next two possessions and the Mountain Lions pulled away at the foul line for the final tally.
“The reality is you can’t score 2 points in a quarter against a quality basketball team and not expect to pay a price,” Cooper said. “Our girls did a good job of getting re-dialed in for the second quarter and were able to make a game of it at the end.
“Bottom line, I’m proud of the effort and fight we showed tonight; not so proud of the first quarter. We’ll learn from this.
“We’ll go home, get back in the gym and start getting ready for Glenville.”
Fitzwater had a huge game with 30 points and 15 rebounds – both game-highs. Maddie Ratcliff and Maggie Guynn added 15 and 10 points, respectively, for the hosts.
McCutcheon and Olivia Belknap shared game scoring honors for the Hilltoppers with 14 points each. Arriana Manzay added 13 points and 3 steals.
The Black and Gold will be back in the ASRC on Saturday to host Glenville State. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.