CHARLESTON - When the West Liberty women's basketball team looks back on the 2012-13 season, the Hilltoppers may remember it as a season of blown opportunities.
After No. 3 seed Fairmont (22-9) jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first four minutes of a West Virginia Conference Tournament semifinal on Friday, No. 2 seed WLU (21-8) went on a 15-1 run capped by a Hilary Southworth 3-pointer that put the Toppers ahead 18-9.
However, like so many times this season, West Liberty watched its lead slowly slip away.
WLU’s Meghan Wiseman (14) takes a shot during Friday’s WVC semifinal.
The Falcons used the final eight minutes of the first half to go on a 22-9 run and went into halftime ahead 31-27.
"I thought the game was lost in the first half," Toppers coach Lynn Ullom said. "That was probably as disappointed as I've been in my team's effort in 22 years. We just stood and watched the game."
"For however long that stretch was, it looked like varsity girls against junior high girls. (Fairmont) got every loose ball, every offensive rebound. We're not good enough to withstand that type of effort or lack of effort to win a basketball game."
Falcon senior Kaitlin Snyder agreed with Ullom saying, "I feel like we were a lot more aggressive then they were on the boards. We have a lot of respect for West Liberty and we know we're going to get a great game from them no matter what. We fought hard in the first half to come back. We just kept that intensity the whole time."
The two teams battled through a second half that saw the lead change hands eight times, while also being tied on five occasions.
It wasn't until Tiffany Nicholson's second free throw made the score 62-57 with 2:19 remaining that the Falcons began to separate themselves from the Toppers.
After a Liz Flowers layup got WLU back to within five at 66-61, Snyder went to the foul line six straight times and knocked down five of her attempts as the teams arrived at the final verdict.
"This is not the first game that we blew a lead," Southworth said. "All season we've been through this and you'd think we'd learn our lesson. We get up nine, ten then we go on cruise control. Once we get up, people think we've won already and clearly we haven't. It truly is just an effort thing."
Added Ullom: "She makes a good point. That's 11 games now that we've held double-digit leads and lost it all. It's been one of those types of years."
Southworth, the WVC Player of the Year, finished with a game-high 26 points to go along with six rebounds.
Seniors Emily Blevins and Meghan Wiseman ended their Hilltoppers careers with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Snyder, who scored her 2,000th career point Wednesday, led the Falcons with 20 points, four assists and four steals.
Hailey Garrett added 15 points and 11 boards, while Briana Welch chipped in 13 points.
"I'm disappointed because I thought we were good enough to win a championship," Ullom said. "There's a lot of coaches that say they're good enough to win championships, but, and this may sound like a cliche, I want to be the best. I want to play for it all. I thought we had an opportunity to reach that level. What kind of coach would I be if I'm not tremendously, tremendously disappointed."