In front of a packed house at the McDonough Center in Wheeling West Virginia, the #16th ranked Jesuit Cardinals played host to the top ranked team in the Nation, West Liberty. Dalton Bolon was perfect from behind the arc and helped the Hilltoppers hold off the Cards on the road with a final score of 81-78.
Wheeling Jesuit started fast and had the lead for the first 10 minutes or so, but that is when West Liberty’s defense would start to weigh on Jesuit and Bolon would heat up. Bolon would hit two straight Bombs to give the Toppers the lead 19-17.
West Liberty would hold serve throughout the remainder of the half including getting a Dan Monteroso coast to coast lay in which helped give the Hilltoppers a 6 point lead at half 42-36. Dan would lead all Hilltoppers at the half with 12 points.
West Liberty shot 43% from the field at the half and also for the game. But would increase their shooting percentage from 3 in that second half from 25-41% which turned out to be the difference in the game. West liberty made 11-27 from outside and it was their ability to hit the three that drove a lead early in the 2nd half for West Liberty all the way out to 14.
Wheeling would fight back though making key shots and getting important boards. They would get the lead down to 2 as the Cardinals were led by Haywood Highsmith with 22, and Pat Moseh with 17. Those two kids were really good tonight, the team itself was just not deep enough to finish.
The Toppers can roll in 5 new guys every timeout. Where as Wheeling goes just 7 or 8 guys deep, and with the pressure that West liberty puts on a team, that normally spells doom.
The Hilltoppers slowed the pace later in the game, running the clock down which is not normally their game. But with less than 2 minutes left, they were up 80-73 just looking to hold on.
That almost backfired as the Cards had 1 more run in them causing the Toppers to turn the ball over and or force some bad shots. With the game 80-78, Dalton Bolon would go 1-2 from the charity stripe at the end to extend the lead to 81-78.
The Cards would get a shot off with less than 2 second left, but it fell short and the Hilltoppers would maintain their undefeated season with the win. West Liberty is now 17-0 and the win gives them the upper hand in the tough Mountain East Conference.
The arena was packed with 2200 standing room only, and the crowd division was even. It roared back and forth with every call. It wasa Great atmosphere for College Basketball with two great teams. They will of course rematch later in the season at the ASRC in West Liberty.
The Hilltoppers finished with 8 players with points in the game, 3 of which in double figures. Monteroso would finish with 16, and Griffin with 15. West Liberty finished shooting 92% from the line, and beat the Cards 39-38 on the boards.
West Liberty will take their unblemished record back home as they host Shepard on the 24th.