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Wheeling Women Defeat West Liberty In Regular Season Finale

WHEELING — With MEC North standings and tournament seedings on the line, the West Liberty and Wheeling women’s basketball game had more implications going for it other than county bragging rights.

Lilly Ritz scored her 1,000th point as a Cardinal en route to a 84-74 victory over the Hilltoppers Saturday afternoon at the McDonough Center.

Wheeling clinched the No. 2 seed in the North Division while West Liberty earned the third seed.

Both teams’ next game will be in the quarterfinal of the MEC Tournament. West Liberty take on Glenville State while Wheeling takes on Concord.

Wheeling avenges a 92-65 loss to the Hilltoppers in the first matchup of the season.

“Obviously, this is the biggest rivalry in the Mountain East Conference,” Wheeling (8-8) coach Mike Llanas said. “West Liberty shot the best basketball at that moment (in the first matchup) and played really well. We just had to take a deep dive into their offense. I have to hand it to my assistant coach Tyler Clark for really digging deep.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride and we seem to be on the best roller coaster in the world because we got ups, we got downs and sometimes we go side to side. There were a lot of implications for (Saturday’s) game and not only that, it’s a rivalry game. I think the players were much more tuned in to the significance of what would happen if we were to lose versus winning. Everybody wants to play in WesBanco Arena and the only way to insure that is to win the game. Then, see where the chips fall.”

Shots were falling for the Cardinals in the second half as they shot 56.3% from the field in the third quarter along with 44.4% in the fourth.

They held a seven point-lead at halftime, never relinquished it and led by as many as 14 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Hilltoppers, though, never gave up. On a conventional 3-point play by Olivia Belknap with 1:38 to play to cut the deficit to single digits, 76-67. That’s as close as they would get as the Cardinals went 6 of 8 from the free throw line down the stretch.

“Some things didn’t go our way,” West Liberty coach Kyle Cooper said. “You have to give hats off to (Wheeling). I thought their guard play made some plays they traditionally have not made consistently and I think that really opened things up for them.”

Wheeling Park product Shanley Woods was one of those guards as she netted 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Buckeye Local alum Emily Holzopfel was also solid totaling 11 points (4 of 9).

Ritz paced the way for the Cardinals with 29 points and 21 rebounds.

Maura Castelluci rounded out the double figure scorers for the Cardinals with 10 points.

Belknap paced West Liberty with a game-high 33 points while Karly McCutcheon tallied 14.

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