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West Liberty men cruise to MEC semis

WHEELING – Coming into Friday’s Mountain East Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup against Concord, West Liberty had a little sour taste in its mouth.

After all, the Mountain Lions handed the Hilltoppers their first loss of the season that resulted in three straight for West Liberty.

The Hilltoppers got the deed done as five West Liberty players scored in double figures while three of them had double-doubles en route to a 102-68 victory over Concord at WesBanco Arena.

West Liberty will play Glenville State in a semifinal matchup Saturday night with a tipoff at 8 p.m.

The Hilltoppers and Pioneers are No. 1 and 2 respectively in scoring offense in the nation.

“I thought it was a good team win for us,” Howlett said. “Obviously taking a loss down at their place earlier in the year, we had a sour taste in our mouths coming into this game. We did some different things in our press and our half-court defense I thought affected them.

“I thought Malik Johnson was really good when we played them the first time. Our point of emphasis on our end to take him out and the game and show him double teams. Again, overall a good team win. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys.”

And one of those guys that contributed in a huge way was Marlon Moore Jr. After having a tremendous 2020 tournament run, Moore was a vital part of a 15-0 West Liberty in the first half to give West Liberty a 44-25 lead with 5:04 remaining.

He finished the game tied for a team-high 18-points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

“I think with Marlon it just starts before the game. I think when he’s dialed in and focused, he can give us a good lift,” Howlett said. “My favorite thing with Marlon (Friday) was the type of rebounds he was pulling. They were in traffic and they were tough rebounds with guys surrounding him. I think the more of that kind of stuff he does, the better his offense is going to get. It was good to see him make a 3 at the end of the game which can give him confidence going forward.”

The Mountain Lions couldn’t cut their deficit to single digits as the Hilltoppers shot 50% from the field in the game including going 6 of 13 from behind the arc in the second half.

Dalton Bolon (16 points, 10 rebound) and Pat Robinson (18 points, 10 rebounds) also supplied double-doubles for the Hilltoppers while Bryce Butler also tallied 16 points.

Zach Rasile rounded out the double figure scoring for West Liberty tallying 13 points including hitting three 3-pointers in the second half.

The Hilltoppers defense was also giving the Mountain Lions fits forcing 16 turnovers including 10 steals.

Concord was also cold from behind the 3-point arc going 3 of 27 in the process.

“We told the team at halftime, that was the best half-court defensive effort that we’ve had all season. I think guys were just locked in. Guys knew who they were guarding, where they were guarding them at and I felt like they were on the same page.”

For the Mountain Lions, Malik Johnson netted a team-high 18 points while Liam Evans and Ethan Heller scored 14 and 12, respectively.

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