Metro St. knocks off Hilltoppers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – West Liberty fell behind by 16 in the first half and could not complete the comeback despite a superb second-half rally, falling to Metro State 83-76, in the Division II Final Four.

The Hilltoppers conclude the season with a 34-2 mark.

WLU closed the gap to 64-63, but MSU was able to get to the foul line and secured the victory as the Roadrunners pushed the margin back to 10 in the closing minute before another spurt by the Hilltoppers made it a six-point spread, 79-73. However, MSU went back to the line to wrap up the win.

Alex Falk concluded the contest with a game-high 34 points while Cedric Harris added 11. Chris Morrow and Seger Bonifant had nine apiece while Shawn Dyer chipped in eight.

The Hilltoppers connected on 28-of-83 from the field (33.7 percent) for the game, including 13-of-47 (27.7 percent) from downtown. The squad made seven-of-eight from the charity stripe (87.5 percent). MSU made 25-of-56 shots (44.6 percent) from the floor and hit 27-of-35 (77.1 percent) from the charity stripe.

Harris opened the game with a short jumper, giving the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead. However, MSU responded quickly, getting Morrow to pick up two fouls in a 13-second span and sending him to the bench. The third-ranked team reeled off 10 straight points before the first media time-out. MSU reeled off five more points before Falk connected on a lay-up to make it 15-4.

The Roadrunners made it 19-4 entering the second media time-out, which came at the 11:51 mark. Bonifant finally broke through with a three from the wing at the 7:54 mark, making it 20-7. Falk quickly forced a turnover to get the ball back after the third media time-out.

After a quick MSU bucket, Bonifant went back to work, draining another three. Harris drained one from deep after a Roadrunner basket, making it 24-13. Down 29-15, Bonifant hit a three as the shot clock nearly expired and Tim Hausfeld scored on a turnaround jumper after a steal, cutting the deficit to nine, 29-20, at the 3:49 mark.

Dyer and Morrow hit three-point shots in the waning moments of the half and the Hilltoppers made it a nine-point game on multiple occasions, but the Roadrunners managed to get to the line multiple times in the last couple of minutes of the half, taking a 41-28 lead into the break.

In the first half, WLU hit 10-of-35 shots from the floor (28.6 percent) and just 30 percent from downtown (six-of-20), but the biggest difference was at the line where MSU hit 12-of-13 in the opening stanza while the Hilltoppers got to the line twice, but made both attempts.

WLU opened the second half with a strong defensive stand. Morrow then sliced into the lead with a three-point shot, making it a 10-point game at 41-31. Head coach Jim Crutchfield’s squad trimmed it to seven, 50-43, on a deep three by Falk at the 15:43 mark.

WLU pulled within six after Falk connected on back-to-back drives, but MSU went on a 4-0 lead to push it to 10 with 12:42 to play.

Down 62-52, Falk took a a pass from Bonifant and calmly drilled the three-point shot with 9:53 to go.

Falk converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a 64-58 contest. After a defensive stand, Harris found Dyer for a corner three-point shot. Falk quickly stole the pass and the Hilltoppers worked it to Hester, who hit a lay-up to make it 64-63 with 5:43 to go.

WLU was unable to tie or take the lead in the closing minutes as MSU continued to hit free throws down the stretch to secure the win.