Wheeling Jesuit came into the game today with the Hilltoppers hungry, as they just re-entered the NCAA Div II top 25. West Liberty has been 5th in the poll for what has seemed like weeks now with little movement. Neither team wanted to lose the last regular season game, although West Liberty truly had nothing to play for other than the fact that it was Senior Night and Coach Howlett wanted his players to walk out of his building winners in their last regular season home game. Unfortunately for Howlett, he received a less than stellar performance from his guys and they would fall at home by the final score of 84-74.
The Hilltoppers have done a great job of dictating play against every team in the league this season, except for the Cardinals in their 2 games. The first go around, West Liberty snuck out of Wheeling with a 2 point win. Tonight, the Hilltoppers found themselves a step slower and not making anything from outside the arc. Combine all of that with the fact that the Cardinals were just flat out hungrier tonight, the outcome in turn was predictable with those attributes.
Wheeling was led by Moseh, Boswell, and of course Highsmith. Pat Moseh finished with 21, although he left the game with a minute to play as he looked like he aggravated a knee. Boswell would finish with 19 points and Highsmith led all Cardinal players with 23 points.
I don’t think as a team Jesuit was a better team, but there three best players were unstoppable. West Liberty on the other hand only had one of their guys play well, while the rest were a step slow and out of sorts.
It was Boswell and Moseh that hurt the Hilltoppers in that first half, breaking down what was a slower and less active press. So much so that coach Howlett was forced to play zone. Both of those Cardinal Stars played faster than any of the West Liberty starters. In the second half, it was Highsmith that West Liberty would leave open time and again.
The Hilltoppers would go down early on and would be forced to playing catch up throughout. Dan Monteroso was the Hilltoppers leading scorer, he also led the game in scoring with 26. But unlike other nights, no one else on the team had any answers. West Liberty shot less than 40% from the field and just 19% from 3 point land. They made only 6 of 31 shots from 3.
Coach Howlett started his post game press conference with “credit Wheeling, they were ready to play tonight.” He later added that he feels bad for his seniors, he said “I got 3 seniors hurting real bad right now.” He also commented on the fact that he felt that Wheeling came in hungrier.
Hilltopper Senior forward Dan Monteroso, whom had a good game did everything he could to will his struggling offensive team to a win tonight. He was distraught after the game, you could see it in the presser. He stated, “I did not do a good enough job tonight leading.” Dan stepped up and fell on a sword because he is a tremendous leader on this team. After being beaten in a big game and taking the blame, he saw a media member he had not seen in a while, made sure he was okay. Told him how he missed seeing him.( obviously there was something going on there, still unaware what it was)
Coach Howlett was frustrated by the play, he said “I think some of these guys weren’t ready.” “That’s on me!” When I asked him if this could be a learning experience, he jumped on it and said absolutely. He did though seem perplexed by why his guys were not ready for the game. He talked about having a week full of bad practices and then in front of a full house of nearly 2000 people, they played a bad game.
Coach Howlett has some decisions to make this week, as he said they guys played like they need time away from the game, and him. But he said in the same breath, but they need to practice well in order to be ready for the MEC Tournament. Coach also went on to say “we need to remain sharp. No need to change things.”
When he talked about practice, Dan Monteroso was shaking his head yes… it was clear to see he was ready to get back at it.