Hilltoppers advance to D-II Final Four
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The nation’s top scoring offense in Division II was up to its old tricks in Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.
No. 1 ranked West Liberty scored 60 points in the second half against Winona State (Minn.) and extended its winning streak to 20 consecutive games after defeating the Warriors, 110-84.
The Hilltoppers (34-1) advance to Saturday’s semifinal round against Metro State (Colo.), which knocked off Franklin Pierce (N.H.), 78-65, in Thursday’s first semifinal game. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
Against Winona State (27-8), six Hilltoppers scored in double figures with Alex Falk and Cedric Harris leading the way with 23 points apiece. Teammate C.J. Hester added 13 points while pulling down a game-high nine rebounds. Rounding out the double-digit scorers for West Liberty were Chris Morrow and Shawn Dyer with 12 points apiece, and Seger Bonifant with 11 points.
Winona State’s top scorer entering the contest was Clayton Vette at 20.7 points per game. The first-team All-American finished with 14 points before fouling out with just under seven minutes remaining in the second half.
Taylor Cameron led the Warriors with 18 points and four assists, while Grant Johnson and Kellen Taylor tossed in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Winona State stuck close with West Liberty for much of the first half. Before the Hilltoppers moved in front to stay at 36-34, the game witnessed nine ties and three lead changes.
A 12-4 run just before intermission gave West Liberty its largest lead at 48-38 at the one-minute mark. At the break, the teams went into the locker rooms with Winona State trailing 50-41.
Harris and Falk came out firing at the start of the second half and combined for nine points as West Liberty extended the margin to 59-45.
Several minutes later, Cameron knocked down a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 59-53 with 14:47 left in the game.
The Hilltoppers immediately responded with an 11-0 run and pulled ahead 70-53 on the strength of six points from Shawn Dyer, who hit once from long range and on the next possession made three straight free throws after getting fouled by Vette.
Winona State never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.