“When we were in the Locker room at half, the guys were just sitting around with a blank stare. I looked at them and said, you know there are fans out there that came here to see you play. You put in all the work… and this is what it is for. To play basketball.”
That is what coach Ben Howlett said to his team at half leading 48-43. A half in which he watched his team sleep walk against a West Virginia State team play with lots of energy. The Yellowjackets were able to cause turnovers, arrant passes and poor shot selections. State even had the lead on several occasions but just could not maintain that level of play. By the time the second half got rolling, the energy and momentum were firmly in the Hilltoppers corner. The final score tonight at the ASRC, West Liberty 110 State 87.
As mentioned, the Toppers led for most of the first half but the Yellowjackets took advantage of the Hilltoppers overall early struggles. They kept the pressure on and caused many arrant passes and were able to break down the Hilltoppers press time and again by stretching the floor. The Jackets were able to find holes as Guard Earnest Jenkins was efficient with the ball distributing and scoring. When I asked coach Howlett about Ernest Jenkins, he said… “That guy is really good.” “He broke us down before, and we tried to keep that from happening again.”
Jenkins not only broke them down from time to time, he was a force scoring the basketball. When he would get a breather and come out is when the Hilltoppers took advantage of their defense.
Even while his teammates were struggling, the Hilltopper’s Dan Monteroso continued to show why he is such a special player and the most important piece to this team. Dan would finish the first half with 15 leading the way for the Hilltoppers. West Liberty would finish the half leading 48-43, but it never truly looked like they played all that well.
The second half started and the worm turned. The Hilltoppers went on an 8 point run to start the half and forced an early time out by the Yellowjackets. Dalton Bolon, whom finished the first half with just 2 points, and that was a bucket made at the end of the half would wake up in the second half to help the Toppers pull away from West Virginia State. Bolon scored 17 in the second half to give him 19 for the game.
After the game, when asked about Bolon’s slow start, Coach stated that although he rebounded in that second half, “Dalton will be in the gym later tonight. If he is not in class, or sleeping, he is in the gym shooting basketball.”
Evan French is another guy that had a great game from outside, especially in that first half. When I asked him what was the leading factor to the him finding his way open so often, he said “We just have too many weapons. They can not guard everyone.”
Pat Johnson Agwu led all players with 27 points for State, but midway through the second half he was completely gasses. After drving to the hoop on several occaisions in that second half, he would find him self just hanging out in the offensive end not venturing back up the court as he tried to catch his breath. Agwu is not a tall guy, but he is wide and plays really big underneath.
The Final score at the ASRC would be 110-87. Dan Monteroso led all Hilltoppers with 24 points. Bolon finished with 19, while Watson settled for 17 and Griffin with 10.
The win tonight and a loss by Fairmont tonight essentially gives the Toppers a 4 game lead in the conference coming down the stretch. They travel to Charleston this weekend followed by another road game to Wesleyan before returning home to host Glenville State.