MEC women's tournament: West Liberty rolls past UVa-Wise
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Civic Center was the longtime venue of the West Virginia Conference tournament prior to the league giving way to the new Mountain East Conference in 2013. In the arena's inaugural game as host of the first-year league's postseason tournament the West Liberty women put on a show.
The No. 2 seed Hilltoppers (20-9) connected on 10 of 16 first half 3-point attempts and cruised to an 82-57 win against the University of Virginia at Wise to advance to Saturday's semifinal round.
"I thought we passed the ball exceptionally well today," West Liberty coach Lynn Ullom said. "We haven't ran many sets this year and we kind of broke them back out today. We executed pretty well and we've got kids that can shoot the ball. We're a little streaky. If anyone has watched us play all year they know we're streaky but fortunately today it was the good side of streaky."
Liz Flowers led West Liberty with 18 points and nine assists, while Jenn Mohney (17 points) and Colleen McCormick (15 points) each came off the Hilltoppers bench to make solid contributions against the tenth-seeded Cavaliers (10-18).
Mohney, a junior, began the season as a fixture in the West Liberty starting five. A fractured finger in a game against Glenville State sidelined her for six games and when she was ready to return there was not a place for her in the Hilltoppers' first five.
Ullom said in her absence the team was playing well and he did not want to mess with what was working. Mohney had to adjust to coming off the bench.
"Jenn started for us the first half of the season and fractured her finger," he said. "She sat out an extended period of time and we were winning. It's hard. I feel bad for her but we're winning games so this is a new role she has to embrace and obviously she's embracing it. She came off the bench and gave us an incredible spark."
Mohney said she does not mind her new role with the Hilltoppers.
"It doesn't bother me coming off the bench," she said. "I get to feed off their energy and I just let Liz (Flowers) take control, Kailee (Howe) take control and jump on their back."
Wise was led by Reynesha Archer's 22 points. The Cavaliers trailed 43-30 at halftime thanks in large part to West Liberty's long-range barrage. Coach Kristin Kunzman said her team's focus on stopping the 3-point shot in the second half worked with the Hilltoppers connecting on just four shots from range in the period, but the deficit was such that a comeback was a long shot.
"We were getting caught too deep on help," she said. "We were sinking in the lane too much and were constantly chasing. We tried to eliminate that in the second half but we had got down on ourselves and our energy.
"You have to guard the arc and if you fly out they're going to go by you, attack the rim and hit a layup. They're very well disciplined basketball players and they move the ball extremely well. Whatever five were in there work really well together and that makes it difficult."
West Liberty will play Charleston, which beat Urbana in its quarterfinal game, on Saturday in the semifinal round.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.