By Chad Richards, Contributing Writer
With the regular season quickly coming to a close and the Mountain East Conference (MEC) tournament in Charleston awaiting teams at the end of the month, every game becomes important for seeding in the tournament.
For West Liberty’s men’s basketball team, this is certainly the case as picking up both wins this week, one on the road and one at home, can guarantee the Toppers the MEC Regular Season Championship and a No. 1 seed come tournament time.
After escaping a tough test at home from Concord, head coach Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers put in another 2-0 week by cruising to a home win against the Yellowjackets of West Virginia State and putting in a strong second half to sink the Golden Eagles of the University of Charleston on the road.
In the first match, West Liberty only led West Virginia State by five points at the half, 48-43, but the Toppers put the foot on the gas in the second half and added 62 points for a 23-point win over the Yellowjackets, 110-87. Six Toppers scored double figures, with Dan Monteroso leading the way with 24 and Dalton Bolon adding in 19 more. The Yellowjackets Pat Johnson-Agwu put in 27 points and Ernest Jenkins added 17 more, but it was not enough to overcome West Liberty at home.
It was a similar story when the Toppers traveled to Charleston that weekend, only finding themselves up 39-38 at the half. The second half was a much different story, with Monteroso’s 20 points and Bolon’s 19 helping West Liberty to an 87-65 win. Shaq Speights led the Golden Eagles with 16 points.
That past week sets up a key week worth of MEC matches for West Liberty, which kicks off Thursday on the road against West Virginia Wesleyan. The Toppers took care of the Bobcats at home earlier this season by a score of 111-81, with Evan French and Eric Meininger both putting in strong performances with 21 and 16 points. Nick Brooks and Fred Brondsted also put in high numbers for Wesleyan with 21 and 15 points, but West Liberty was able to keep the Bobcats at bay throughout the game.
The Toppers put in another 30-point night on the road by rolling to a 130-100 win over a Glenville State team that had seen some early season struggles. 27 points from Monteroso, 20 points from Jordan Watson, and two more players in double figures were able to eclipse a 33-point night from the Pioneers Darhius Nunn and keep the Toppers on top, who took a 75-47 lead into halftime.
While sweeping the season series between these two teams this week will be important, these games will also have a major impact on the Toppers place in the MEC standings and seeding for the upcoming MEC Tournament.
West Liberty sits atop the conference with a 23-1 overall and 18-1 MEC record, with Wheeling Jesuit and Fairmont State three games back tied for second place. Both suffered upset losses to UVa-Wise, putting Wheeling Jesuit and Fairmont State in second with a 14-4 MEC record, with Wheeling Jesuit having the edge over the Falcons with a 19-5 overall record.
This means that with four games left for West Liberty in the regular season, they can claim a share of the MEC regular season title with a win against Wesleyan, and can clinch the title completely with another win over Glenville State, assuming Fairmont State and Wheeling Jesuit win their remaining games.
WLUTV will provide full video for both games, and watch out for more basketball recaps and previews by the Trumpet.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com