By Chad Richards, Contributing Writer
The MEC/PSAC Challenge is a recent addition to the Toppers’ schedule, though opening the season with an at-home, out-of-conference weekend has been a part of the start of the season since 2014. It was originally called the MEC Conference Challenge, but was briefly called the Charles and Lavoo Crutchfield Classic in the 2015-16 season. A name and format stuck in the 2016-17 season: the MEC/PSAC Conference Challenge.
The Toppers and other Mountain East Conference (MEC) teams would be invited to the ASRC to host teams from across the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Challenge will mark the official start of basketball on the hilltop once again, when West Liberty hosts recent PSAC challenger Cheyney (Pa.) on Friday and an old foe from the WVIAC days in Seton Hill (Pa.) on Saturday.
First season head coach Ben Howlett will have his first test in regular season against Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, which will serve as a mutual season opener for both teams for the second year in a row. Last season’s matchup ended with a convincing win for the Toppers over the Wolves, 135-55.
Zac Grossenbacher led all players with 18 points with Dan Monteroso putting in 11 more. Monteroso will be returning to play for the Toppers after a stellar first season that saw him earn several honors, including an NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Academic All-American first team selection and All-American honors from D2CCA, NABC, and Basketball Times.
Cheyney ended that season 2-25 with wins against Cal U (Pa.) and Seton Hill (Pa.). They will look for the early win to get off to a good start on the 2017-18 season.
The Toppers will close out MEC/PSAC action for the weekend when they take on Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. The last time these two teams faced each other was in the 2012-2013 season, when both teams were members of the now dissolved WVIAC. West Liberty won both matchups in that final season, 81-72 and 74-62.
West Liberty led by as much as 24 points in that second matchup, with the Griffins managing to keep the game close at the half, 45-30. Seton Hill got within three and led by as much as five in the first half, but the Toppers were just too much for them as they pulled out an 11-0 run in the second half, later giving them the win and the season sweep on their home court.
Alex Falk led all scorers in that game with 25 points with Cedric Harris adding 11 and Shawn Dyer 13 more. This was also the game where Falk passed the now Head Coach Howlett on West Liberty’s all time scoring list with 1670 career points.
The Griffins finished the season with a 16-12 mark and fell in the second round of the WVIAC Tournament to Fairmont State. They finished last season 11-16, falling in the first round of the PSAC Tournament to University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
The Toppers will open MEC play next Saturday on the road, against Glenville State College. They will make their home conference debut on Monday, Nov. 20 against West Virginia Wesleyan. Be sure to check out the Trumpet all season long for game previews and player profiles. WLU-TV will also have full video coverage of all home games and select away games.
Original artwork by Mimi Albon