WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The Wheeling Jesuit women’s basketball team fell behind early to West Liberty in Saturday’s game, but the Cardinals did not give up easily.
WJU managed to cut the Hilltoppers’ double-digit lead down to as little as six points at two different points late in the fourth quarter, before falling to West Liberty, 60-50.
“I thought we played great defense to hold West Liberty to 60 points, but we missed way too many layups,” head coach Debbie Buff stated. “We got off to a slow start, but we will regroup and take a day off to get ready for the conference tournament.”
The Cardinals had a rough shooting day from behind the arc. WJU did not make a single three-point shot, while West Liberty knocked in five.
With the loss, WJU will compete as the number two seed in the Mountain East Conference tournament, which will be held in Charleston, West Virginia. The tournament begins on Thursday, March 2 with the championship decided on Sunday March 6.
West Liberty (25-3, 20-2 MEC) jumped out to an early lead, 15-5, and won the first quarter 21-7 over Wheeling Jesuit (23-5, 19-3 MEC).
The Cardinals responded and won the second quarter by a one-point margin to enter halftime down 33-20.
Sophomore Mariah Callen netted a pair of free-throws late in the third quarter to shrink the Hilltopper lead to eight points, 40-32. Senior Jaila Bryant added a pair of free throws shortly after, and the Cardinals trailed by just seven points.
Chelsea Richardson hit a last second jump shot, as the third quarter expired, to shrink the West Liberty lead to seven points heading into the fourth.
Richardson knocked in the first two points of the fourth quarter, and the Hilltopper lead was down to five points, 45-40. West Liberty scored the next seven points to regain their double-digit lead, 52-40.
Just when it seemed like the game was over, WJU made another run. The Cardinals scored the next six points, and the West Liberty lead was down to six with 3:51 remaining.
West Liberty grew its lead back to 10 with 2:19 remaining, but WJU once again cut into the lead.
Bryant netted another pair of free throws, and the lead was eight points. Jaana Motton netted a jumper with 1:30 on the clock, and WJU trailed by six points.
West Liberty scored the final four points of the afternoon, and prevailed over WJU, 60-50.
Jaila Bryant scored 12 points and moved into the top-five in Wheeling Jesuit scoring history. The senior secured six boards and handed out one assist.
Jaana Motton supplied the Cardinals with eight points, six rebounds, and a team-high four assists.
Four Cardinals chipped in six points each. Mariah Callen, Cassi Stein, Chenelle Moore, and Chelsea Richardson combined for the 24 points.
Callen grabbed four rebounds, while Stein secured three. Moore and Richardson grabbed five and six rebounds, respectively.
Kylie Frizell scored four points, while senior Taylor Lubinsky added two points.
WJU will compete as the number two seed in the MEC tournament beginning on Thursday, March 3. The Cardinals play the winner of Charleston and Shepherd at 12:00 p.m.