By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A week ago the West Liberty Hilltoppers were the undefeated, No. 1 ranked team in the country. Monday night they fell at Charleston and Saturday the Concord Mountain Lions looked to put another notch in the Hilltoppers’ loss column.
The Mountain Lions gave a valiant effort, carried a lead into halftime, but a strong second half carried West Liberty to a 101-81 win at the Carter Center.
“I don’t know if we got fatigued,” said CU head coach Kent McBride. “We quit defending. We did a good job defending the drive in the first half and the big thing in the second half, they’d drive us and in transition we didn’t match to a man and they got easy baskets. They did a better job getting easy baskets there for about a seven-minute stretch and we got a little complacent offensively.”
After ties at four and six, West Liberty, who came into the game averaging 105 points a game, scored the next six points to forge ahead. The visitors’ lead went as high as 12, 27-15, before Concord surged back.
A three-point play by Cam Shannon and a trey by Damien Tunstalle brought the Lions within seven. The lead then went between seven and 10 points for the next four minutes before Concord struck again.
A layup by Nick Ruffin, three free throws by Thomas Brown, another bucket by Ruffin, and a jumper by Brown pulled the home team to within four, 38-34 with three-and-a-half minutes to go before halftime.
A three by Tunstalle with 2:22 on the clock made it a one-point game and Brown’s three with just over a minute before intermission tied the game at 42. Brown’s three with 48 ticks on the opening half clock gave Concord a 45-42 advantage at the break.
Both teams shot 54.5 percent from the field in the opening half. West Liberty made 18-of-33 shots, while CU connected on 12-of-22 and the smaller Lions out-rebounded the Hilltoppers. Free throw shooting was the difference as Concord went to the charity stripe 20 times and made 13, while West Liberty only shot four free throws and made three.
Concord extended its lead to five as the second half opened, but within the next two minutes West Liberty recaptured the lead.
The final tie of the game came with 15:11 to play when Tunstalle pulled Concord even with a basket in the paint. West Liberty pulled away, going up by 14 midway through the final 20 minutes. CU again came back and closed to within nine on a putback by Jordan Davis, but could not get any closer.
West Liberty’s lead went as high as 22, 97-75 before the final horn sounded and Concord fell by 20, 101-81.
Brown led Concord and all scorers with 28 points. He made three treys and was 11-of-12 from the free throw line. Tunstalle added 15 for the Mountain Lions (9-5, 5-5).
“We brought him (Brown) off the bench to kind of relax him and it seemed to work,” McBride said. “We got them into foul trouble as a consequence of us driving the ball to the basket and it all stemmed off when we got stops in the first half they couldn’t set up their pressure. We didn’t get the ball as much in the second half as we did the first half.”
West Liberty had five players score in double figures. Alex Falk led the way with 22. C.J. Hester scored 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Cedric Harris tallied 17 and dished out six assists. Shawn Dyer came off the bench and popped in 14 and Tim Hauser scored 10 with five assists.
The Hilltoppers (16-1, 10-1) shot 59 percent from the field in the second half. Concord, after making 54 percent in the first half, connected on 34 percent of its attempts in the final 20 minutes. West Liberty held a 40-26 rebounding advantage.
Concord plays again next Saturday at Seton Hill.