By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
West Liberty State’s Hillary Southworth came into Saturday’s game against Concord leading the WVIAC in scoring, averaging 20 points a game. That is what Southworth scored — in the first half — as the Hilltoppers pulled away from the Mountain Lions in the final 20 minutes and claimed a 94-77 conference win.
“We can’t get 40 minutes out of them,” said Concord head coach Kenny Osborne of the Lady Lions. “If we could just get a 40-minute consistent effort, we’d win the game. We go the last four minutes of the first half without scoring.
“We played 16 minutes there, we played 15 minutes in the second half. This team has got to find a way to play 40 minutes. If we do that, I think we’ll win some games.”
Concord’s Amanda Smith scored the game’s first bucket before former CU player and Summers County graduate Emily Blevins hit a three from the top of the key to give West Liberty a 3-2 lead.
Tied at seven, Concord moved ahead by five before West Liberty came back and tied the game at 12. The lead see-sawed before the visitors went ahead by five on a Southworth three.
Again the Mountain Lions clawed back and tied the game at 21 on a jump shot by Stephanie Wagner. The score contined to teeter-totter between the two teams and there were ties at 28, 30, 35, and 38, the last tie coming with just over four minutes to play in the half.
The final three minutes of the half saw West Liberty go on a 9-1 scoring spurt that allowed them to hold a 47-39 lead at the break.
In the first half Concord shot 50 percent from the field and made eight-of-11 shots from the free throw line. There were seven ties and 11 lead changes in the first 20 minutes of play.
Following the break West Liberty came out determined to shoot down the Mountain Lions. The Hilltoppers opened the half on a 9-0 run and built a 23-point lead, 76-53, midway through the second half.
Slowly Concord fought back, chipping the lead that grew as high as 25 down to 17 with seven minutes left.
Rachel Artrip’s three cut it to 16 and Smith’s putback with just under five minutes to go made it a 14 point game. CU got as close as 13 at the 2:09 mark when Jaqueline Kestner dropped through a pair of three throws, but could not get any closer.
West Liberty head coac Lynn Ullom, in his 22nd season in that position, said, “We’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Osborne and Concord. They’re dealing with some injuries and this isn’t the team he probably expected, especially with (Andrea) Bertrand out for the year. She is a great player.”
Ullom continued, “We thought this was going to be a battle because they are so well-coached. I thought the whole key of the game was the last two minutes of the first half. We came from a deficit to get a nine-point lead and then we probably played as well as we’re capable of playing for the first eight minutes of the second half. With his (Osborne’s) injury situation, it’s hard for him to make up huge deficits. They (Concord) just don’t have the normal firepower to come back from that.”
After making half its shots in the first 20 minutes, Concord could put only 28 percent of its attempts through the hoop in the second half. West Liberty maintained a hot hand throughout the game. Shooting 48 percent in the first half, the Hilltoppers canned 54 percent of their shots in the second.
Southworth finished the game with 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting with five three point baskets. She had four steals two assists and two blocks. Jasmine Kiley came off the bench to score 13. Blevins and Meghan Wiseman each added 12 and Bri Kamarec contributed 10.
Wagner and Artrip led Concord as each scored 15. Kestner added 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds before fouling out with less than a minute to play.
West Liberty (10-5, 8-3) won the rebounding contest 44-38 while the Concord (4-12, 3-7) bench won the scoring battle 28-19.
Osborne continues to look for a fix for the Lady Lions.
“We’ve changed our warmup routine. We’ve changed our pregame meal routine. We’ve tried everything,” Osborne said. “They’ve got to come out with a mindset of being ready to play.”
Concord returns to the court next Saturday at Seton Hill.