No. 1 West Liberty Downs Wheeling Jesuit in OT - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

No. 1 West Liberty Downs Wheeling Jesuit in OT

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Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked West Liberty went 6-for-6 from the foul line during the final 23 seconds of overtime Thursday night to hold off upset-minded Wheeling Jesuit, 93-89, before an overflow crowd at the McDonough Center.

Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (15-0, 11-0) had to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit to hand the hard-luck Cardinals (6-8, 4-7) their fifth straight loss – all coming by margins of 6 points or less. It marked the first time all season that West Liberty had trailed at any point in the second half.
"With the schools being so close, it's always a great game when we play these guys," Crutchfield said. "Wheeling played really hard and shot the ball extremely well, especially in the first half. I told our guys at halftime that there is nothing like a comeback win and this was our chance to get one."
Jesuit shot a sizzling 54 percent (19-of-35) from the floor – including an eye-popping 64 percent (9-of-14) from behind the 3-point arc in the first half to take a 53-42 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The Cardinals took their biggest lead of the night, 57-44, on an Andre Harris layup in the opening minute when play resumed and kept the Hilltoppers at bay until midway through the half.
Trailing 67-56 after another Harris layup with 9:05 to go, West Liberty finally began to find the range.
Seger Bonifant drained a pair of free throws and followed up with a 3-pointer to touch off a 14-2 Hilltopper spurt that produced West Liberty's first lead since the game's opening minutes.
Devin Hoehn drained a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner off a fast break pass from Cedric Harris to cap the run and put the Hilltoppers up, 70-69, with just 3:49 left in regulation.
The teams traded leads down the stretch with a deep Shawn Dyer 3-pointer giving West Liberty a 77-75 lead with 1:31 to go. Andre Harris finished off an assist from Eric Seifert to knot the score for WJU at 77-77 as the clock turned under a minute and neither team scored again as the game went to overtime.
The Hilltoppers never trailed in the extra frame. Hoehn opened the scoring with a rebound hoop and Dyer – who scored all 13 of his points after halftime to go over the 1,000-point mark for his career – added two more free throws for an 81-77 lead.
The Cardinals forced ties at 81 and 83 but Cedric Harris put the visitors ahead to stay, 86-83, with a dagger of a 3-pointer at 1:32.
Harris, C.J. Hester and Dyer combined to hit all six of their free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the win.
"We see a lot of zone (defenses) so we work on that quite a bit," Crutchfield said. "I would have liked to see us attack the interior of the zone a little more but I thought we were getting pretty good looks for the most part. We had a few shots go in and out on us, especially in the first half, but the bottom line is that we kept our heads up, kept working hard on defense and got out of here with a win."
The Hilltoppers – the nation's highest-scoring team – never did find their shooting touch as they shot a season-low 38 percent (28-of-73) from the floor to go along with a season-low 28 percent (12-of-43) from the 3-point arc.
Defense made the difference in the second half as the Cardinals cooled off to 40 percent (16-of-40) from the floor after intermission and missed their last 17 3-point attempts.
Harris led West Liberty with 22 points and 5 assists while Hoehn added 20 points off the bench with 5 3-pointers. Bonifant posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Dyer's 13 points and C.J. Hester's 10 rounded out the double-figure scorers.
Wheeling Jesuit got a game-high 26 points from Justin Fritts – 22 of them in the first half – while Siefert added 22 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
The Hilltoppers hit the road on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game at Urbana.
GAME NOTES
X With 1,002 points, Dyer became the 45th member of West Liberty's 1,000-Point Club
  X This was the Hilltoppers' 11th win in the last 12 games against Wheeling Jesuit
X Crutchfield improved his record against the Cardinals to 22-6
X West Liberty is 126-4 (.969) in its last 130 regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season