Men’s and Women’s basketball teams compete in tournaments this week

The MEC Men and Women’s basketball tournaments get underway this week at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, WV, with West Liberty being represented on both sides. WLU’s Men’s basketball go into the tournament as the #1 seed in the MEC North Division after finishing the regular season with a 13-3 record meaning they will automatically receive a place in the quarterfinals. The Lady Hilltoppers will also receive a bye to the quarterfinals as their 8-8 regular season record left them as the #3 seed in the North Division.

The Men’s side will start their defence of the conference championship with a quarter final matchup against Concord University on Friday Mar. 5 at 2pm. The finished as the #4 seed in the Men’s South Division and narrowly edged out Davis & Elkins 107-101 after 2OT in Monday night’s first round game to set up Friday’s quarterfinal matchup against the Hilltoppers. The Mountain Lions had an 8-7 regular season record, winning against West Liberty in the early stages of the season in January. This was one of only 3 losses for WLU this season so they will be out for revenge in this week’s postseason matchup.

This will be a repeat of last year’s quarterfinal which saw West Liberty progress as 100-85 victors on their way to the MEC Championship title. They boast an impressive 20-4 record against the Mountain Lions across the last 11 years, winning nine of the last ten matchups between the two sides.The Hilltoppers have made the MEC semi-finals every year since the conference was formed and they will be looking to continue this streak this Friday afternoon.
Head Coach Ben Howlett will be looking to some of his key players to bring their excellent regular-season form into the postseason and help their team progress through the tournament. Junior guard Pat Robinson III was recently named MEC Men’s Basketballer of the week after averaging 26.5 points and shooting 61.1 percent from the floor in his last two games, while leading the Toppers to the MEC North Division Championship. Robinson is the team’s second highest scorer so far this season, behind only Dalton Bolton, who has also had another impressive season, averaging 22 points per game. WLU will be without the injured Will Yoakum who has played an important part in the team’s success in his 3 years on the hilltop.
Either Glenville State or Notre Dame College (Ohio) awaits the winner of this matchup in the semi-finals of the tournament, which will take place Saturday Mar. 6 at 8pm.

The Lady Toppers face a tough task against Glenville State in their quarterfinal on Thursday Mar. 4 at 11am. The Pioneers have had an impressive season so far, recording 11 wins and just 2 losses, defeating WLU 101-98 in an extremely close game back in January. They are the reigning MEC Conference champions, winning the 2019 conference tournament to reach the NCAA National tournament, which was inevitably cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Head Coach Kyle Cooper will be hoping that his side can break their 11 game losing streak against the Pioneers and record their first win against them in over 5 years. WLU’s last win in this matchup came back at the start of 2016 in a 101-100 overtime victory. The Pioneers are coming off the back of a loss in the last game against Concord, a result that will give West Liberty confidence that they can win the game and progress to the semi-finals.

If they are to end this losing streak, they will need big performances from seniors Audrey Tingle and Olivia Belknapp, the teams two highest scorers this season so far. Belknapp boasts an impressive 19.6 points per game while Tingle leads the team in assists, rebounds, steals and minutes played, playing an average of 34 minutes a game. Freshman guard Karly McCutcheon has also had an impressive first season for the Toppers, averaging over 10 points per game and recording a team-high 2.6 3-point field goals per game.
Their opponents have also not been shy of some impressive performances this season, with Junior guard Zakiyah Wingfield being the standout. Wingfield comes off the back of being named MEC Women’s Basketballer of the week after scoring 68 points and collecting 26 rebounds in her last three games.
The winner of this matchup will progress to the semi-finals of the tournament where they will face either Notre Dame College (Ohio) or West Virginia Wesleyean to fight for a place in the conference finals.