No. 18 Pioneers Outgun WLU Women Down Stretch

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WHEELING, W.Va. – The West Liberty University women’s basketball team threw a scare into No. 18 Glenville State during the second half of Thursday’s MEC Tournament quarterfinal but the Pioneers responded with a huge fourth quarter to advance with a 118-87 win.

    Olivia Belknap scored her 1,000th career point and Audrey Tingle just missed a triple-double for Coach Kyle Cooper’s scrappy Hilltoppers (8-9), who battled back from an early double-digit deficit to take the lead on multiple occasions midway through the third quarter.

    Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, Glenville (11-2) – the nation’s’ highest-scoring team – had expected nothing less from WLU and was able to weather the storm.

    “We knew it was going to be a game of runs,” Pioneer head coach Kim Stephens said. “West Liberty shoots the ball too well and plays too hard to let you relax at any point. A 12-point lead is never safe against that team; a 20-point lead is never safe.”

    Glenville’s size and athleticism enabled them to take back control in the latter stages of the third quarter and the Hilltoppers couldn’t get it back.

    Controlling the glass at both ends of the floor and forcing several turnovers with their relentless defensive pressure, the Pioneers opened up a 77-68 advantage after three quarters and then shifted into overdrive for the entire fourth quarter.

    Glenville shot a blistering 67 percent (16-24) from the floor over the final 10 minutes to turn what had been a one- or two-possession game for most of the day into a runaway with an MEC Tournament record 41 points in the quarter.

    Rebounds and turnovers were the keys to victory for the Pioneers. They finished with a 52-33 rebounding edge, collecting 27 of those boards off the offensive glass. Glenville took full advantage with a 46-8 edge in Second Chance Points to complement a 30-9 bulge in Points Off Turnovers.

    Cooper referenced the Pioneers’ work on the offensive glass as a major factor during his post-game interview while praising his team on their determination and effort.

    “Our girls fought like crazy today,” Cooper said. “I was really impressed with our first shot defense. We just couldn’t finish enough plays once we came back and took the lead in the third quarter.

    “If we could have found a way to pull a few more crucial boards or hit a couple of shots to keep them from getting on a roll, we could have had a very different outcome. Even so, hats off to Glenville. We lost to a very good basketball team today.”

    Belknap added an exclamation point to her stellar senior season with a game-high 36 points that made her the 34th 1,000-point scorer in Lady Hilltopper history with 1,001 points. The 5-7 guard from Dover, Ohio averaged 27.1 ppg. over the final seven games of her collegiate career.

    “Liv and I have been around each other for a really long time,” Cooper said, “and I was so proud to see her be rewarded with this senior year. Even thought it was shorter than normal, she was phenomenal. Liv has grown into a confident, powerful young woman with a big-time future ahead of her.”

    Belknap wasn’t the only Hilltopper to put up big numbers. Tingle came up one rebound shy of becoming the only NCAA Division II woman to post multiple triple-doubles this season with 15 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds while Arriana Manzay worked the paint for 11 points and 10 boards.

    Sophomore Grace Faulk added a dozen points while freshman Karly McCutcheon added 10 lightings to round out the double figure scorers.

    Re’Shawna Stone and Zakiyah Winfield paced six double figure scorers for Glenville State with 23 and 20 points, respectively.

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