No. 10-ranked West Liberty sprinted out to a 24-point halftime lead and never looked back here afternoon, clinching its 11th straight 20-win season with a 103-84 win against UVA-Wise at the ASRC.
“The first thing I did in the locker room was congratulate the guys on their 20th win,” head coach Jim Crutchfield said. “Some people may take those for granted but nobody knows better than those guys how much hard work has gone into that. When you’re part of a program that has put together 11 consecutive 20-win seasons, that’s something you can take pride in.”
The Cavaliers (1-21, 0-17) were no match for the crisp passing clinic Crutchfield’s league-leading Hilltoppers (20-2, 15-2) conducted for most of the afternoon.
West Liberty had 18 assists on 23 field goals in the first half and finished the game with 30 assists on 42 field goals while committing just 6 turnovers. Ten of the 11 Hilltoppers who saw action were charted with at least one assist.
“We shared the ball very well today. I think we had 18 assists and 3 turnovers in the first half,” Crutchfield said. “That’s a pretty good ratio at any level of basketball.”
The scorebook showed another balanced attack for West Liberty with six players hitting double-digits and 10 players cracking the scoring column.
Zac Grossenbacher was the leading scorer off the bench for the second straight game with 19 points while senior All-Region standout C.J. Hester had another strong game with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
“Zac is really blossoming into an all-around complete player,” Crutchfield said. “He works inside and outside, defends well on the perimeter and can shoot the three or attack the rim.
“C.J. is so steady that I think he gets overlooked at times but he has a knack for finding the open area and being around the basketball. It’s no accident that he seems to be open all the time. I was glad to see him recognized with his third straight Academic All-District honor this week, as well. C.J. works just as hard in the classroom as he does on the court and he puts up the numbers in both places to prove it.”
Seger Bonifant added 16 points while Mike Lamberti had a dozen and Devin Hoehn chipped in with 10 to round out WLU’s double-figure scorers.
Philip Owens led UVA-Wise with 20 points while Brian Sydnor had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a losing cause.
“We don’t have much time to enjoy this one,” Crutchfield said. “Starting night at Shepherd, we have five very tough games remaining against five of the top teams in our league.
“We really need to get back on the practice court over the next few days and get tuned into exactly what we’re doing so we can finish strong down the stretch.”
The Hilltoppers make the long trek to the Eastern Panhandle for a game at Shepherd.