By Chad Richards, Contributing Writer
West Liberty has been holding strong as the No. 1 team in Division II, but is expected to drop a few spots after the loss (the rankings have not been published as of this writing). They still hold the top spot in the Mountain East Conference with a two-game cushion. WLU is still in contention to host the Atlantic Regional Tournament with the next likely host No. 8 Virginia State suffering an upset loss to Bowie State and giving them a second loss on the season.
The loss does not impact West Liberty’s postseason hopes or their top spot in the conference, but it does mean splitting the series with a longtime rival.
After playing in the Joe Retton Arena, the Toppers will return to the court of the ASRC for a three-game week. They will be hosting UVa-Wise, Concord, and West Virginia State on the court where they hold an undefeated 44-0 home record dating back to 2015.
The week will kick off Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. contest against UVa-Wise. The Cavaliers sit towards the bottom half of the conference in eighth place (8-12, 6-8) and were defeated by the Toppers in the first matchup this season by a score of 120-85. James Griffin led the way for West Liberty in that game with 21 points and contributions from Evan French (17), Dan Monteroso and Dalton Bolon (16) to a 22-point halftime lead and a margin that the hosts would not get under double digits again. Chance Sheffy of UVa-Wise led all scorers with 22 and a former MEC player of the week Taiwo Badmus added 20 more.
The action continues Saturday as the Concord Mountain Lions come up the hill for a 3 p.m. game. Concord holds a one-game edge over UVa-Wise for seventh place in the MEC (10-9, 7-7) but have managed to play spoiler to West Liberty before as they have knocked the Toppers off at the Carter Center for the past two seasons.
The Toppers were able to overcome the Mountain Lions this season with a final score of 119-110. Freshman Bolon had a huge night with 30 points with Monteroso contributing 28. Concord’s BJ Hamlet led all scorers with 38 and Tommy Bolte — at the time the NCAA DII’s leading scorer — added a double double with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com