Men’s Basketball Earn MEC Championship Trophy
Due to COVID-19, the men’s basketball season was cut short, but that didn’t stop them from dominating the court at the MEC Championships! The Hilltoppers regained their title of MEC Champions for the 2019-2020 season. The Hilltoppers began their MEC tournament run with a matchup against Concord University. The Hilltoppers began the first 20 minutes of play by shooting 66 percent from beyond the three-point arch, sinking eight for 12. Most of West Liberty’s points were scored off of forced turnovers, which the black and gold had 36 points from forced turnovers on the night.
The first half ended leading Concord 55-42. The Hilltoppers continued to dominate the court in the second half, and while Concord had a scoring burst, only being outscored 45-43 in the second half, it wasn’t enough to take down the 1 seed, West Liberty. The Hilltoppers were led by Will Yoakum with 27 points and eight rebounds, Pat Robinson III with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Luke Dyer with 16 points and one rebound. Although Dyer is usually the Topper’s defensive threat, number 12 caught fire early in the game, shooting six for 10 from inside the arch and four for seven from beyond with three steals to top off his night. The Hilltoppers defeated Concord 100-85 and advanced to the next round of play.
In the next round, the Toppers met West Virginia State. The semifinal game started off as a nailbiter for both teams, being tied after one half of play at 44 all. The Hilltoppers struggled to limit WV State’s second-chance points, allowing six put back points, but the Hilltoppers speed was almost too much to handle, scoring nine fast break points in the first half alone. Going into the second half, the Hilltoppers outscored the Jackets, finishing the game at 88-81.
The Toppers managed to stay at 100 percent from the free-throw line the entire game, giving 14 much-needed points to successfully advance to the MEC finals. The Toppers were led by Yoakum with 31 points, Dalton Bolon with 21, Pat Robinson III with 12, and Jon Alessandro with nine for the night. The Hilltoppers were then set to play MEC powerhouse, Charleston University, in the finals of the MEC tournament.
Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers came ready to play for the championship game. With the start of the first half, the Toppers began the first half hot defensively. While their shooting percentage was below average for a normal night for the black and gold, they were able to hold Charleston’s three-point ratio to only two for nine beyond the arch. The Toppers also managed to force 10 turnovers and only gave the ball up twice the whole night. In unusual fashion, West Liberty went into halftime leading 35-25 and ready to finish the tournament with one more win. The second half was much tighter in terms of scoring.
Charleston began to make a run at a comeback, but the Toppers were able to match that on the offensive boards outscoring Charleston 38-35. Finishing the night and tournament 73-60. The Toppers were led by Marlon Moore Jr. with 24 points, Pat Robinson III with 21, and Will Yoakum with 11. The Hilltoppers celebrated their MEC championship at Wesbanco Arena and looked forward to a National Championship run until the NCAA indefinitely canceled the season to the coronavirus. The Toppers, thankfully, do not graduate any seniors and look for another MEC title and National Championship run next season.
Lady Toppers Fall Short in MEC Tournament
The Lady Hilltoppers of West Liberty University were matched against West Virginia State in the first round of the MEC tournament at Wesbanco Arena in Wheeling. Although their season did not end the way they wanted it to, they still made everyone on the Hilltop very proud. In the game that took place on March 4, the Hilltoppers were in a survive and advance scenario. The first quarter held a tight game for the black and gold as they trailed WV State 10-17 after 10 minutes of play.
The Toppers struggled to finish at the bucket, only scoring 4 for 18 attempts at 22 percent; however, Coach Copper’s team held the WV State Jacket’s scoring surge to only 17. As the game progressed, the Toppers entered Halftime trailing 10 points 23-33 lead by standout seniors Taylor Johnson and Morgan Brunner. The second half, which is usually West Liberty’s strength, showed that the Toppers were not going down without a fight. They held the Jackets to just 10 points in the third quarter.
That defense burst was spearheaded with 11 rebounds for Audrey Tingle on the night, six rebounds for senior Grace Fodor, and 20 points in the paint from steals and fast breaks. As the fourth quarter came to a close, the Toppers ended the night and the MEC tournament berth 54-64. The Toppers were led by senior Taylor Johnson with 21 points and four rebounds, senior Morgan Brunner with 15 points and four rebounds, and junior Audrey Tingle with nine points and 11 rebounds. The Lady Toppers lose four major seniors, Taylor Johnson, Morgan Brunner, Monica Bragg, and Grace Fodor, but look forward to another run at the MEC title next season.