WLU pair cited
PRINCETON – It was dj’ vu all over again for the West Virginia Conference men’s basketball coaches this winter as West Liberty rolled to its fourth consecutive league title, so it came as no surprise Monday when the No. 3-ranked Hilltoppers dominated the 2013 All-WVIAC balloting.
Alex Falk was the 2013 WVIAC Player of the Year while coach Jim Crutchfield set a league record with an unprecedented fourth straight WVIAC Coach of the Year Award, his fifth overall. Cedric Harris joined Falk as first team All-WVIAC honorees while C.J. Hester was a second team pick and Seger Bonifant was named to the WVIAC All-Freshman Team.
Wheeling Jesuit’s Justin Fritts, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in 2011-2012, was named the league’s Freshman of the Year after averaging more than 15 points a game. Cardinals teammate Ben Siefert was a first-team selection.
Falk, a 6-foot-3 senior guard is West Liberty’s third WVIAC Player of the Year – Spencer Johnson (1984) and Corey Pelle (2011) – and a repeat first-team selection after leading the Hilltoppers to a 27-1 mark. He has played in a school-record 128 games the last four seasons with West Liberty posting a 120-8 (.938) record during that span.
Although he was the leading scorer (20.7 ppg.) on the nation’s highest-scoring team, it was Falk’s other skills that pushed him over the top. He also averaged more than four rebounds and three assists per game while his 87 steals led the WVIAC and ranked in the top 10 nationally. Having passed the 1,800-point career mark, Falk shot nearly 50 percent (192 of 388, .495) from the floor and 82 percent (153 of 186, .823) from the foul line.
Crutchfield’s fourth consecutive Coach of the Year honor recognized his efforts during one of the most dominant runs of success in WVIAC history. The first coach to win four straight league titles since Fairmont State’s Joe Retton during the mid-1970s, Crutchfield has averaged more than 30 victories a season in that stretch while leading the Hilltoppers to an 85-3 (.966) record in league play.
Averaging 105.5 ppg., West Liberty has already clinched its seventh national scoring championship in the past eight seasons and has been ranked No. 1 in the nation at some point during each of the past three years. With a 234-44 record during his nine seasons on the hilltop, Crutchfield’s career winning percentage of .842 is the highest of any active NCAA men’s basketball coach.
Harris, a 6-0 junior guard was sidelined by injury late in the season but still ranked among the WVIAC’s top 10 scorers at 17.8 ppg. He ranked second only to Falk with 2.54 steals per game and was also No. 2 in the WVIAC with a 2.10 assist/turnover ratio. Harris also ranked fifth in assists (5.2 apg.) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.455).
Joining Falk and Harris on the All-WVIAC first-team are Terrell Lipkins of Charleston, Kurklin Bohanon of Alderson-Broaddus, Chad Moore of Shepherd, Nick Novak of Pitt-Johnstown, Siefert, Isaac Thornton of Fairmont State and West Virginia Wesleyan’s Kelsey Williams.
Hester moved up to second-team status after earning WVIAC Freshman of the Year laurels a season ago. The 6-4 sophomore averaged 12.1 ppg. and was the second-leading rebounder in the WVIAC with an average of 9.2 rpg. Having already surpassed the 500-rebound mark for his career, Hester set an ASRC record with 21 rebounds in a Feb. 18 victory against Pitt-Johnstown.
Joining Hester on the second-team unit were Brendan Cooper, Isaiah Hill and Malik Stith of Fairmont State, D’Quan Lynch of Concord, Jamel Morris of Glenville State, Brantley Osborne of Shepherd and Concord’s Damien Tunstalle.
Bonifant, a 6-7 guard emerged as a lethal 3-point threat while averaging just shy of 10 points a game coming off the bench for the Hilltoppers.
The rangy sharpshooter led the WVIAC and shattered WLU’s single-season record for 3-point field goal percentage by draining 53 of 93 (.570) shots from behind the arc.
Rounding out the 2013 WVIAC All-Freshman Team were DJ Blanks of Glenville State, Noah Cottrill of West Virginia Wesleyan, and Charleston’s Aleksandr Kesic.