Tim Hausfeld's first 3-point basket put him in the record books but it was the West Liberty senior's final bonus bomb that will take its place on the No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers' highlight reel.
Hausfeld drained a 28-foot dagger of a 3-pointer with just 35 seconds remaining Thursday night to ice West Liberty's 82-77 victory against Fairmont State in a battle of the West Virginia Conference's top two teams before a standing-room-only crowd at a raucous ASRC.
With the Hilltoppers (15-1, 9-1) clinging to a 79-77 lead, West Liberty's C.J. Hester rebounded a missed 3-point try by the Falcons' Isaac Thornton with 50 seconds left and whipped an outlet pass to Alex Falk.
While many in the crowd waited for Falk to pull up and start working the clock, the senior All-American split a pair of defenders and sailed into the paint.
The Fairmont State (10-4, 8-2) defense rotated down to shut off the penetration only to see Falk fire a leaping kick-out pass to Hausfeld in front of the West Liberty bench.
The 5-7 veteran never hesitated and the high-arching shot whispered through the net as the crowd exploded. The Falcons wound up with two more possessions but couldn't get a shot to go down as the three-time defending WVIAC champion Hilltoppers strengthened their hold on the top rung of the conference standings.
Hausfeld's clinching shot was his second 3-pointer of the night. His first, which came midway through the first half and staked the hosts to their largest lead of the night at 31-18, made him the 42nd 1,000-point scorer in Hilltopper history.
"With a 2-point lead and 50 seconds to play, the other team is going to get the ball back regardless of what you do so you're looking to score on that possession, not just run the clock," Crutchfield said.
"I'm sure some people were a little surprised when we shot with so much time left on the shot but if I can get Tim Hausfeld an open look at a 3-pointer, I'll take that shot anytime."
West Liberty maintained a comfortable lead for most of the opening half and took a 50-41 edge into the locker room at the break.
Fairmont State erased that lead in the first four minutes of the second half, knotting the count at 52-52 on a pair of Malik Stith free throws, but WLU responded with a 10-0 run for a 62-52 lead following Cedric Harris' steal and layup with 13:33 on the clock.
The Falcons stormed back and took a 5-point lead, 75-70, on a Ke'Chaun Lewis drive with 4:46 remaining but a conventional 3-point play by Harris – who was fouled while scoring off an offensive rebound – ignited a 9-0 West Liberty run that put the hosts on top, 79-75, with 2 minutes remaining and set the stage for Hausfeld's heroics.
"These are the games guys will remember years from now," Crutchfield said. "Two good teams playing for first place in the conference in a hard-fought game that goes down to the wire before a capacity crowd … that's hard to beat."
Harris's 20 points led four double-figure scorers for the Hilltoppers. Falk finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds while Chris Morrow added 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Hausfeld turned in a dozen points for his night's work.
Thornton led all scorers with 22 points for the Falcons. Brendan Cooper (13), Isaiah Hill (12) and Lewis (10) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the visitors.
West Liberty hits the road on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game at Concord.
X Hausfeld's 12 points pushed his career total to 1,009 points
X The Hilltoppers extended their WVIAC home winning streak to 48 games
X West Liberty has won 80 of its last 82 home games
X Fairmont State's only previous road loss was a 77-75 heartbreaker at NCAA Division I Kent State
X Crutchfield improved to 18-1 in his coaching career against the Falcons