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WL Men Claim MEC Title

February 14, 2014
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

By RICK THORP

For The Intelligencer

WEST LIBERTY - New Conference. Same result.

Cedric Harris poured in a game-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as No. 3-ranked West Liberty pulled away for a 106-97 victory against Shepherd on Thursday night to claim the inaugural Mountain East Conference men's regular-season basketball championship.

The title is the fifth straight conference crown for the Hilltoppers (21-1 overall, 17-1 MEC) and clinches the top seed and a first-round bye in next month's the MEC Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.

''It's almost shocking for us to do it with four games still to go,'' West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield said. ''I like to think we'd be in the hunt for (the title) this year. But I kind of pictured us winning it toward the end of the season.

''Fortunately, we won enough games to close it out early.''

The triumph was the Hilltoppers'15th straight against the Rams (16-6, 11-6) and marked West Liberty's 16th 100-point performance of the season.

West Liberty captured the final four West Virginia Conference crowns before moving to the MEC along with most of the former West Virginia Conference.

''We never really mention it,'' Crutchfield said of the conference championship. ''But when it happens, it sure feels good.''

Shepherd, which dropped a 31-point decision to West Liberty at home in early January, held its own before a jam-packed crowd inside the ASRC before the Toppers pulled away with a 19-5 run midway through the second half.

The Rams' Brantley Osborne got Shepherd, coached by Wheeling Park grad Justin Namolik, to within three at 79-76 with 9:41 remaining. But during the next 5:19, the Toppers extended their lead to 98-81 and quelled any hopes of a comeback.

''We got a couple of turnovers and turned them into buckets,'' Crutchfield noted. ''Those were big. I thought (Bubby) Goodwin provided a nice spark off the bench in the second half and he made some big shots for us.''

Goodwin, the Wheeling Park product, scored eight of his 14 points, including a pair of treys, that helped West Liberty go up 92-79 with 6:15 remaining.

Shawn Dyer, who chipped in with 17 off the bench, added five during the run.

''The shots that we got through that stretch were very high-percentage shots,'' Crutchfield said. ''They were either layups or really clean looks at 3s. I just feel like we have enough guys that shoot the ball well enough that as long as we get those kind of looks we're going to score enough points to win a game if we can get a few stops. And we got a few stops in there.''

After watching the Rams do a number on tBy RICK THORP

For The Intelligencer

WEST LIBERTY - New Conference. Same result.

Cedric Harris poured in a game-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as No. 3-ranked West Liberty pulled away for a 106-97 victory against Shepherd on Thursday night to claim the inaugural Mountain East Conference men's regular-season basketball championship.

The title is the fifth straight conference crown for the Hilltoppers (21-1 overall, 17-1 MEC) and clinches the top seed and a first-round bye in next month's the MEC Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.

''It's almost shocking for us to do it with four games still to go,'' West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield said. ''I like to think we'd be in the hunt for (the title) this year. But I kind of pictured us winning it toward the end of the season.

''Fortunately, we won enough games to close it out early.''

The triumph was the Hilltoppers'15th straight against the Rams (16-6, 11-6) and marked West Liberty's 16th 100-point performance of the season.

West Liberty captured the final four West Virginia Conference crowns before moving to the MEC along with most of the former West Virginia Conference.

''We never really mention it,'' Crutchfield said of the conference championship. ''But when it happens, it sure feels good.''

Shepherd, which dropped a 31-point decision to West Liberty at home in early January, held its own before a jam-packed crowd inside the ASRC before the Toppers pulled away with a 19-5 run midway through the second half.

The Rams' Brantley Osborne got Shepherd, coached by Wheeling Park grad Justin Namolik, to within three at 79-76 with 9:41 remaining. But during the next 5:19, the Toppers extended their lead to 98-81 and quelled any hopes of a comeback.

''We got a couple of turnovers and turned them into buckets,'' Crutchfield noted. ''Those were big. I thought (Bubby) Goodwin provided a nice spark off the bench in the second half and he made some big shots for us.''

Goodwin, the Wheeling Park product, scored eight of his 14 points, including a pair of treys, that helped West Liberty go up 92-79 with 6:15 remaining.

Shawn Dyer, who chipped in with 17 off the bench, added five during the run.

''The shots that we got through that stretch were very high-percentage shots,'' Crutchfield said. ''They were either layups or really clean looks at 3s. I just feel like we have enough guys that shoot the ball well enough that as long as we get those kind of looks we're going to score enough points to win a game if we can get a few stops. And we got a few stops in there.''

After watching the Rams do a number on them on the boards early on, the Hilltoppers became more stoudt as the game wound down, holding Shepherd to three rebounds during the final 9:41.

West Liberty ended up outrebounding Shepherd 43-38, with Keene Cockburn leading the way with 10. Cockburn finished with a double-double, adding 10 points. He also swatted away a career-best seven shots, tied for second in team history with four others.

C.J. Hester led everyone off the bench with 20 points and nine boards.

Austin Cunningham led six players scoring in double figures for the Rams with 25 points. Osborne added 20 points and Marcus Pilgrim had 16. Morgan McDonald tacked on 15 points, while Naim Muhammad and Kevin Jones chipped in 11 and 10, respectively.

The Hilltoppers return to action at 4 p.m. Saturday at Fairmont State.

Game Note

West Liberty ended up outrebounding Shepherd 43-38, with Keene Cockburn leading the way with 10. Cockburn finished with a double-double, adding 10 points. He also swatted away a career-best seven shots, tied for second in team history with four others.

C.J. Hester led everyone off the bench with 20 points and nine boards.

Austin Cunningham led six players scoring in double figures for the Rams with 25 points. Osborne added 20 points and Marcus Pilgrim had 16. Morgan McDonald tacked on 15 points, while Naim Muhammad and Kevin Jones chipped in 11 and 10, respectively.

The Hilltoppers return to action at 4 p.m. Saturday at Fairmont State.

Game Note

 
 

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