WEST LIBERTY - Alex Falk revs his RPMs higher than anyone and he admits even he doesn't know how much the tach can take.
''I haven't reached it yet,'' he said.
He may have to at 7 tonight as his top-seeded West Liberty team faces a tall task against No. 2 Shaw in the Atlantic Region championship game at the ASRC.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY WLU
Junior Alex Falk
Falk, a 6-foot-4 junior from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, whose list of accolades grows by the day - first team all-region and WVC, 1,000-point scorer, WVC Tourney Most Valuable Player, etc. - is coming off an unconscious performance against West Virginia Wesleyan in the semifinal.
He made each of first eight shots, had 18 points prior to the 10-minute mark of the first half and finished with 29, helping the Hilltoppers to their second victory in the tournament - by a combined 67 points.
Falk said it wasn't a feeling he often gets and it had nothing to do with what he ate, considering the Hilltoppers have been eating Subway before games since Jared was a much bigger man.
If he wasn't already - and he was - Wesleyan coach Jim Boone counts himself among Falk's biggest fans.
''I love him,'' Boone said Sunday night. ''I don't like to play against him. What a competitor. He plays as hard, if not harder, than anybody in our league. He gets as much out his ability as anyone - I mean that in a very complimentary and positive way. He gets it all.
''I've probably seen about every game they've played this year. I've never seen him take a night off. I've never seen him take a half off. I've never seen him take a play off. To me that's one of the greatest compliments you can have as a player.''
Aside from Sunday night, Falk did drop a career-high 32 points on Boone's Bobcats earlier this season but this has very little to do with points.
There's a white mark left by Falk's shoe on the black paint out of bounds at the ASRC that signifies what playing the game means to him. It was just after halftime, the Hilltoppers were up 20 and Falk was diving for a loose ball that was deflected by Tim Hausfeld.
Ultimately, Falk didn't get that one, but did he get to one in which he hurdled his own bench and bounced a ball off a Wesleyan player in an effort to save one possession. There he was, sitting on his backside behind a scattered bench, where he wouldn't have gotten a better response from the crowd if he'd taken off blind folded from the foul line and threw down a 360-dunk.
It's a neat career Falk's carved out for himself in a system that isn't really designed to make one player stand out above the rest, even as Coach Jim Crutchfield admits he wouldn't trade Falk for anyone.
This season, Falk leads the Hilltoppers in points, free throws, minutes played (more than 1,000, including all 45 against Charleston in the WVC Championship game), field goals made and steals.
In the 99 games WLU has played since he arrived on campus (he's played in 98), the Hilltoppers have won 93. Crutchfield pointed out that makes Falk and fellow juniors Chris Morrow and Hausfeld the winningest players in the country, regardless of division. And seriously, where else are there college basketball players boasting a .939 winning percentage on the doorstep of 100 games played?
Playing in the NCAA Tournament was a foreign concept at West Liberty in the century prior to Falk's arrival.
He's playing in his third one in three years.
''It's something that you can't expect to happen,'' Falk said. ''As Coach said in the locker room, this stuff doesn't happen very often. It's just something you really have to work for. We had a great group of guys last year and a great group of guys this year. It's just all the hard work you put in the fall. It's awesome.''
Yes, Falk started his motor in October. It hasn't stopped yet.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com