WEST LIBERTY - The West Liberty University women's basketball team shook off a somnolent first half Saturday afternoon to come from behind for a 65-54 victory against Bluefield State at the ASRC.
After shooting 25 percent from the floor and trailing by as many as 13 points in the opening 20 minutes, the Hillltoppers (8-6, 5-3 West Virginia Conference) found the range from the field and free-throw line after intermission to post their 17th straight victory against the Blues (4-11, 3-6).
''That was one of the most uninspiring first-half efforts I've seen in this building for a long time,'' West Liberty coach Lynn Ullom said. ''When you're not shooting the ball well and we weren't you have to work on getting better quality shots and getting to the foul line.
West Liberty’s Emily Blevins drives to the basket Saturday at the ASRC.
''We were much more aggressive taking the ball to the basket in the second half and that paid off for us.''
The West Liberty comeback actually began in the latter stages of the opening half.
Bluefield State never trailed in the early going and opened up its largest lead of the day, 24-11, on a Shae Mebane basket with 5:42 left in the half.
The Hilltoppers held the Blues to just three points the rest of the way and were able to trim the deficit to a more manageable 27-23 at the break.
''After the way we had played, I thought we were extremely fortunate to still be in the game at halftime,'' Ullom said.
The surge continued when play resumed with West Liberty taking its first lead of the day, 30-29, on a Jenn Cessna 3-pointer off a feed from Erica Hershberger.
Charlene Diggs answered with a 3-pointer at the other end for the Blues but the Hilltoppers' Hillary Southworth knotted the score at 32-32 off an inbounds play and Bri Kamerec fed Emily Blevins for a layup that gave the hosts a 34-32 lead with 15:17 remaining.
West Liberty never trailed again.
The Hilltoppers gradually opened up their first double-digit lead, 45-35, when Southworth found Chelsea Bradley on a backdoor cut with 10:32 on the clock and the lead never dropped below six points after that.
''I thought our foul shooting was a major factor in the second half,'' Ullom said, pointing to WLU's 15 of 19 showing from the free-throw line after intermission. ''Every time it looked like Bluefield might be making a run, we'd make a couple of clutch free throws to keep them at bay.''
Southworth led all scorers with 23 points - 20 coming in the second half - while Hershberger and Blevins added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Hershberger, whose 12 points tied a career-high, not only knocked down 10 of 11 free throws but handed out a game-high six assists and grabbed five rebounds.
''Erica did a very nice job of letting the game come to her,'' Ullom said. ''She was a steadying influence for us at the point, especially in the second half, and that's exactly what this team needed.''
Diggs led Bluefield State with 18 points, including four 3-pointers.
Wheeling Jesuit 57
WHEELING - Cassy Sanderson scored 18 points but it was not enough as Wheeling Jesuit fell to Concord. Taneka Lewis added 11 points for the Cardinals (2-11).
Concord (12-3) was led by Jolysa Brown with 19 points while Camisha Alexander put up 16 and Amanda Smith and Andrea Bertrand scoring 12 points apeice.
Miami Hamilton 53
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - OU Eastern played its most complete game of the season in dominating conference rival Miami Hamilton. The Panthers raced out to a 40-24 halftime lead thanks to a full-court pressure defense which forced 12 Thunderhawks turnovers and led to 18 first half points.
A pair of Barnesville grads led the way for the Panthers (12-3, 5-2) as senior Allie Doan finished with 18 points and freshman Heidi Hines recorded 15 points.
Hanna Gossett and Rachel Benda had 12 points, with Alexa Isaly netting 11.
BETHANY - The Bethany College women's basketball team picked up another key victory, beating Westminster behind another double-digit performance from Anne Wilson with 15 points.
Renee Shepherd and Kayla Toarmina each netted 10 for the Bison (9-6, 53 PAC)