By TONY VIOLA
WEST LIBERTY - The West Liberty men's basketball team had not lost consecutive games since the first week of February 2009.
West Liberty’s Alex Falk (20) goes up for a jumper while Fairmont’s Stevie Browning (32) attempts to block.
So, after the No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers dropped their first contest of the season Monday night in Charleston, Fairmont State didn't have a chance to do the unthinkable, right? Well, it certainly came close.
Tim Hausfeld drained a wide-open 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining as the Hilltoppers held on to defeat the Falcons, 82-77, Thursday night in front of a rowdy crowd at the ASRC.
''We were up two, but we were going to have to give the ball back to (Fairmont) at some point,'' veteran Toppers coach Jim Crutchfield said.
''So, the key really was not so much run time off the clock, but to score at that point in time. Tim shot the ball with 15 seconds left on the shot clock, but it didn't make any difference, they were getting the ball back regardless. Tim Hausfeld, a clean look at the 3-point line, I'll take that in that situation any time.''
Fairmont (10-4 overall, 8-2 WVC) trailed by nine to start the second half, but quickly went on a 11-2 run to tie the game at 52-52.
The tie was short lived, however, as the Hilltoppers (15-1, 9-1) put up 10 unanswered points to go ahead 62-52 with a little more than 13 minutes remaining.
The Falcons, though, had no quit in them as the visitors used a 10-2 spurt to tie the game again at 66 all and led by as many as five at 75-70 with just under five minutes to play.
A Cedric Harris conventional three-point play, followed by a Chris Morrow layup, brought the crowd to its feet, then a Hausfeld steal and feed to Alex Falk put West Liberty ahead to stay at 79-77.
''I thought we finished the game well,'' Crutchfield said. ''We play a ton of three-minute drills here to finish games. I think that pays off in games like this because you only have so many close games during the season. Things like time, score and situation...you want to react to them in the right way.''
Harris led the Toppers with 20 points, while Falk finished with 18 points to go with nine rebounds.
Hausfeld, who early in the game joined West Liberty's 1,000 point club, ended his night with 12 points. Morrow added 14.
''(Fairmont) is a team that has already beaten Charleston on their home court,'' Crutchfield said. ''Us, Fairmont and Charelston all play each other twice. All these games are going to add up and someone's going to win the conference championship. The key to this league is to be up every night.
''We did a better job with the basketball. We turned it over a few times in the second half, but in the first half, we turned it over 11 times. Fortunately, we shot the ball well.''
Isaac Thornton had a game-high 22 points for the Falcons, while Brendan Copper finished his night with 13 points and 13 boards.
Fairmont State 72
West Liberty 63
WEST LIBERTY - West Liberty and league-leading Fairmont State to a virtual standstill for much of the night only to see the Falcons pull away down the stretch .
The Hilltoppers (9-5, 7-3), who entered the game in third place in the WVIAC, had no answer for Falcon senior Kaitlin Snyder as the league's reigning Player of the Year poured in a game-high 31 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
Hillary Southworth led the West Liberty scoring with 15 points, while Meghan Wiseman added 14 points and nine rebounds. Liz Flowers finished with 10 points and five rebounds.