No.1 Hilltoppers Will Play For WVIAC Title - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

No.1 Hilltoppers Will Play For WVIAC Title

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No. 1-ranked West Liberty hit 10 of its first 12 shots from the floor – including 5 3-pointers – and never looked back in cruising to a 92-73 rout of Wheeling Jesuit Friday night in a West Virginia Conference tournament semifinal at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.

Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (29-1) will be shooting for their third consecutive WVIAC tourney title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when they meet No. 2 seed Fairmont State (22-7) in the championship game. The Falcons pulled out a 75-74 overtime victory against Alderson-Broaddus in Friday's other semifinal.
Although West Liberty is virtually assured of hosting another NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament as the region's top-rated team later this month but that's a conversation for another day.
"The way we see it," Crutchfield said, "earning the chance to come back here tomorrow and play for another championship is a great opportunity for us. We have a chance to be the WVIAC's last tournament champion and with all the tradition in this league over the years, that would be something special."
The WVIAC is scheduled to dissolve after the 2012-13 academic year with most of its schools – including Wheeling Jesuit and WLU – moving on to the newly-formed Mountain East Conference.
Coming off their worst shooting performance of the season in Thursday's 78-66 quarterfinal win against Pitt-Johnstown, West Liberty opened Friday night's game with all guns blazing.
Tim Hausfeld hit three 3-pointers – all from outside 25 feet – to help fuel the Hilltoppers' early surge. Hausfeld's third bonus bomb gave West Liberty a 23-10 lead with 14:28 on the clock.
The Cardinals (19-10) tried to stop the bleeding with a short jumper from Ben Siefert at the other end of the court but the Hilltoppers were far from finished.
Alex Falk knocked down back-to-back hoops and Bubby Goodwin followed with another 3-pointer for a 30-12 West Liberty lead with 12:12 still showing on the scoreboard.
Shawn Dyer ended the first half with another 3-pointer for a 54-33 Hilltopper lead at intermission.
After shooting 60 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, West Liberty led by as many as 25 points in the second half before finally cooling off.
With the Hilltoppers trying to milk the clock on every possession, Wheeling Jesuit was able to chip away at the margin down the stretch but never seriously threatened.
The Cardinals managed to get the lead into single digits, 81-73, on a Justin Prati 3-pointer with 2:37 remaining but West Liberty closed out the game on an 11-0 run to produce the final margin.
"When you're playing with a 25-point lead early in the second half, it's a little bit of a dilemma," Crutchfield said. "Obviously, you don't want to go crazy because you've got another very important game to play in about 16 hours. On the other hand, you don't want to ease off the gas too much.
"We may have been a little guilty of that but when it's all said and done, we came out of here tonight with a 19-point win in a tournament semifinal and a chance to play for a championship tomorrow. I'm pretty good with that."
Falk led the way with 25 points and 6 assists but the WVIAC Player of the Year got plenty of help from his supporting cast. Dyer continued his string of stellar performances in place of injured All-WVIAC guard Cedric Harris with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. C.J. Hester charted a double-double with 14 points and a dozen rebounds while Hausfeld also turned in a 14-point night. Chris Morrow stuffed the stat sheet with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Justin Fritts' 16 points paced four double-figure scorers for Wheeling Jesuit.
GAME NOTES
X Saturday's WVIAC tournament championship game will be televised live to a regional cable audience by Root Sports Pittsburgh
X The Hilltoppers are trying to become only the second WVIAC program in 76 years to sweep three consecutive regular-season and tournament titles
X Joe Retton's legendary Fairmont State squads broke out the brooms for four straight years from 1973-76
X A win against the Falcons on Saturday would give West Liberty its third straight 30-win season. The Hilltopper program had posted only two 20-win seasons before Crutchfield took the reins 9 years ago
X West Liberty has beaten Wheeling Jesuit in 10 of their last 11 meetings and 17 of the last 19 to open up an 80-64 series lead
X Friday's win was the 123rd victory in the past four seasons for the Hilltoppers
X The NCAA Division II record for wins in four consecutive seasons is 127, set by Kentucky Wesleyan from 1998 to 2001
X West Liberty improved to 138-5 (.965) under Crutchfield when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor – including a perfect 20-0 mark this year