WEST LIBERTY - In the first 77 years of basketball at West Liberty only two men's teams won at least 20 games in a season.
With a 74-62 win against Seton Hill on Saturday afternoon at the ASRC, Jim Crutchfield clinched his ninth consecutive 20-win season in as many years since becoming the head man on the hilltop.
''I didn't so much think about the nine (in a row) so much as I did this one in particular,'' Crutchfield said after the game. ''I thought these kids just won 20 games. The entire 20th century, only two teams did it.
West Liberty’s Shawn Dyer goes in for two over Seton Hill’s David Windsor (3) on Saturday at the ASRC.
''I told the guys after the game, we don't usually talk about accomplishments, but its something that you guys won so many basketball games. It's not to be sneezed at because look at how many good teams and good players couldn't accomplish that. I don't know about the other eight, but this one feels good.''
The No. 3-ranked Hilltoppers (20-1 overall, 14-1 West Virginia Conference) started with a 17-2 spurt and followed that up with a 24-12 run to end the half up 45-30.
But the Griffins (11-9, 8-8), who lost an 81-72 decision to the Toppers earlier this season, came racing out of the locker room and quickly went on a 14-2 run that trimmed the WLU lead to three at 47-44.
Then Alex Falk came alive.
The senior All-American, who finished with a game-high 25 points, stopped the bleeding with a layup, then sealed the wound 10 seconds later with a steal and score which swung the momentum back to the side of the hosts and ignited a 15-6 run that put the Toppers up by 14 at 64-50.
''It was a game of runs,'' Crutchfield said. ''We played a really good first half. We gave up a few buckets we shouldn't have late in the half. Their guy makes a 3 at the buzzer, which helps them a little bit, then the momentum switches.
''They're a good team. They're capable of making a comeback, and I think our guys knew that. The best thing that happened (after their run) was we were able to turn them over a couple times. At that point in time, it wasn't about extending the lead out to 20. It was about winning the game.
''Fans want to see us score a hundred points, but the goal is to win the basketball game.''
Part of what helped Seton Hill get back in it was eight West Liberty turnovers to start the second half. That the Griffins held the Hilltoppers to only 29 points in the second half helped, too.
''That's the normal rate (of a basketball game),'' Crutchfield said. ''That's the 60-point game right there. Obviously we didn't shoot the ball well, but the biggest problem was we turned the ball over eight times. If we don't do that, we'll get enough looks and make shots. If we handle the ball well, we're a good offensive team and we're going to score. We just went through one of those spells. That's all.''
Shawn Dyer backed Falk with 13 points, while Cedric Harris added 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
The Hilltoppers have seven games left in the regular season, but six of the seven come against the top six teams in the conference.
''We have the toughest schedule of anyone else in the league down the stretch,'' Crutchfield said. ''I don't ever remember having the top six teams lined up in a row. What are the chances of that? It's just the way it worked out.
''I think it's kind of a disadvantage that you have to come out and bust your hump for six straight games because guys will be playing 40 minutes trying to get the win and then do it again and do it again. Then you have to step into the conference tournament.
''We're mentally tough enough. I don't have to toughen them up by playing good competition.''
The Hilltoppers return to the ASRC Monday to face a 3-18 Ohio Valley squad.
''The guys can watch the Super Bowl (today) then we'll go right back at it.''
Thiel 78, Bethany 71
GREENSVILLE, Pa. - Reece Mabery scored 17 points, but Thiel shot 57 percent from the floor and held a 32-23 rebounding advantage downing Bethany.
The Bison, who dropped to 9-4 in the PAC, grabbed their only lead of the game when Leslie Addy drilled a three for a 14-13 Bison advantage with 12:41 to go in the first half.
Mabery scored 15 of his 17 after the break and James Barton notched 11 of his 14 following halftime. Addy rounded out the top scorers with 11 points and he also made a team-leading four steals.
West Liberty 71, Seton Hill 64
WEST LIBERTY - West Liberty opened up an eight-point lead at the start of the second half and never trailed in the final 20 minutes to earn a 71-64 revenge win against Seton Hill at the ASRC.
Coach Lynn Ullom's Hilltoppers (13-6, 11-4) had squandered a 12-point halftime lead in a 70-58 loss to the Griffins (12-10, 9-7) three weeks ago but was able to hold Seton Hill at bay to earn the season split.
Hillary Southworth led the way with 25 points and 8 rebounds - both game-highs - while Wiseman and fellow senior Emily Blevins each finished with 14 points. Wiseman also blocked 5 shots and grabbed 5 rebounds.
Freshman guard Liz Flowers had a game-high six assists to go along with six points and seven rebounds. Jordan Stacey came off the bench to add seven points and tie for game-high rebounding honors with eight.
Thiel 69, Bethany 55
BETHANY - Despite three players scoring in double figures, Bethany could not overcome big runs by Thiel to open both halves, as the Tomcats went on to post a victory.
Taylor Verrico was the top scorer for the Bison in the game, as she hit three 3-pointers and tallied 13 points. Freshman Mikyla Tipton came off the bench to score 12 and Westerheide also chipped in with 10 markers.
Bison's Baker Snaps Pair of Records
GROVE CITY, Pa. - Bethany sophomore Marina Baker broke a school record in the 400 IM and also led the 400 free relay to a new mark as well in the Bison's final dual meet of the season at Grove City.
The Wolverines posted a pair of victories, winning the women's meet, 119-89, and the men's meet, 103-46.
The 400 IM mark that Baker broke had stood for nearly 40 years. She finished in 4:57.73, eclipsing the standard Mary Scollins set (5:03.4) in 1974.
Bethany's 400 free relay team finished in 3:52.68. Alexi Pyles, Melissa Davis and Taylor Jacobs also swam with Baker.