An upset-minded Glenville State squad battled No. 1 West Liberty into the waning minutes here Saturday afternoon only to see the unbeaten Hilltoppers dribble off with a 105-98 win at a crowded ASRC.
West Liberty (8-0, 4-0) never trailed in the second half and led by as many as 15 points midway through the period but the athletic Pioneers (4-3, 2-2) refused to fold.
A pair of free throws by Glenville's Kevin Gray turned it into a one-possession game, 97-94, with 1:45 remaining but the veteran Hilltoppers didn't bat an eye.
West Liberty ran the shot clock down into single digits before C.J. Hester cashed in a Shawn Dyer feed for a 99-94 tally with 1:15 to go.
Hester then rebounded a Pioneer miss at the other end to give WLU a chance to run some more clock and Alex Falk found a wide-open Hester under the basket for the clincher, making it 101-94 with just 45 ticks remaining.
"We probably needed a game like this," head coach Jim Crutchfield said. "We haven't had any games go down to the end this year but we work on it every day in practice. We like to run as much time off the clock as we can but still look to score and I thought our guys handled that very well."
Hester had a monster game, hitting his first 13 shots from the floor and finishing with 30 points and 14 rebounds. True freshman Bubby Goodwin had 18 points and played a solid floor game in his second career start while Falk stuffed the stat sheet in his usual fashion with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 assists and a blocked shot.
"Glenville was giving a lot of help on the perimeter," Crutchfield said, "and when his man goes to help, C.J. is really good at slipping to the basket. He had a really big game tonight. I thought
Bubby stepped up also with some extended minutes but that didn't surprise me. I expected him to play well after the effort he's been giving in practice."
Dyer added 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists off the bench while freshman Seger Bonifant chipped in with a dozen points.
Gray paced a balanced Pioneer attack with 21 points while Jamel Morris and Joe Ballard added 20 and 19 points, respectively.
The Hilltoppers will focus on first-semester exams this week before heading to Puerto Rico Dec. 17-18 for a two-day holiday tournament.