Hilltopper’s Women’s Basketball team continues to light up the court

After suffering an opening night loss, the West Liberty (WLU) women’s basketball team has been surging through recent competition.

The Hilltoppers have now won three in a row, and lay claim to a 3-1 record, including a 1-0 record in Mountain East Conference (MEC) play. Previously, West Liberty began their season with a two game weekend at Mercyhurst University, which included a contest on Saturday, Nov. 13 against perennial NCAA Division II Tournament contender California University of Pennsylvania (CUP) and another against the alma mater of Associate Head Coach Cassie Seth, Mercyhurst University, on Sunday, Nov. 14.

The season opener against CUP went quite well for the Hilltoppers for the most part, despite Cal’s ability to pull away at the end. West Liberty as a team performed well, as the box score was highlighted by an 18 point performance by Corrine Thomas and an absolutely dominant game by Arriana Manzay, who was the team’s second leading scorer with 12 points. Although it was a difficult pill to swallow for the young Hilltoppers, what was most impressive following the 76-60 loss was how West Liberty bounced back against Mercyhurst the very next day on Nov. 14. West Liberty was successfully able to capture their first win of the season against Mercyhurst by the final score of 84-75, and while it was certainly a team effort until the very end, the biggest lifts of the game were from the scoring of Thomas and Bailee Smith. Sophomore Thomas shot 6-10 from the field, which included 4-8 from beyond the arc to secure a 20 point performance, while true freshman Smith shot 6-11 from the field and 2-3 from three point range to blossom for the first time this season for a 18 point performance. Graduate student Audrey Tingle also impressed, as she posted a 12-6-13 point-assist-rebound statline.

Now 1-1, the Lady Hilltoppers began eyeing their next matchup against Clarion, a young team struggling to find their footing early in the season. Both teams began the game somewhat slow, but soon started finding their rhythm midway through the first quarter, and began exchanging blows. After the first quarter, the black and gold led 18-14, and continued perfecting their strengths, taking a 34-26 advantage into the half.

With West Liberty leading by double digits, it appeared as if the team was going to be able to close out the game with a strong second half, but were soon unraveled in the third quarter. Clarion was able to secure a 27-12 run in the third quarter, completely derailing West Liberty’s lead and forming one of their own. Now shell shocked, West Liberty would now have to attempt to mount their first comeback win of the year, and the team did just that. Led by the quartet of Karly McCutcheon, Smith, Thomas, and Tingle, West Liberty erupted in the fourth quarter in what was one of the most eye popping performances of any team this early in the season. West Liberty’s staggering 32 points in the fourth quarter to claim a 78-68 victory over Clarion, improving the team’s record to 2-1. Smith led the scoring with 20, while McCutcheon had 19, and Thomas had 17.

Now looking to win their third straight, West Liberty did just that against Alderson Broaddus University, eclipsing the century mark for a 105-86 victory over the Battlers. West Liberty’s largest lead of the night blew up to 93-59 at one point, and indicates just how difficult of a time the Battlers had containing the Hilltoppers. Smith posted a new career high with 25 points, followed by 16 from McCutcheon, and 15 from Thomas.

Now as hot as ever, West Liberty will travel to Notre Dame College (Ohio) en route to their fourth straight win on Nov. 23.

For more information on the women’s basketball team, visit hilltoppersports.com.