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Local and Regional Sports

Local and Regional Sports

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West Liberty Clinches MEC regular-season title

Updated: Friday, February 14 2014, 10:34 AM EST

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 3-ranked West Liberty men's basketball team clinched the first Mountain East Conference championship in impressive fashion Thursday night by rolling to a 106-97 win against second-place Shepherd before a jam-packed ASRC.
The hosts' 21st win of the season gave WLU a 5-game lead in the loss column over MEC challengers Shepherd, Charleston and W.Va. Wesleyan with just 4 regular season games remaining.
"It's great to win the first MEC championship," head coach Jim Crutchfield said. "That's five straight conference championships for us after taking the last four in the WVIAC (West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). I told our guys that was an accomplishment they could take pride in and I'm really happy for them."
After a see-saw opening half, the Hilltoppers (21-1, 17-1) took the lead for good in the first two minutes of the second half and led by as many as 17 points down the stretch before a late run by the Rams (16-7, 11-6) trimmed the final margin under double-digits.
Cedric Harris scored 17 of his game-high 26 points after intermission and West Liberty blistered the cords at a 61.1 percent pace (19-of-31) in the second half as the hosts sent the large crowd home happy.
Harris got plenty of help from his teammates in clinching the first-ever MEC title.
C.J. Hester just missed a double-double with 20 points and 9 rebounds while Shawn Dyer also made a run at a double-double with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Keene Cockburn notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while also flirting with a triple-double with a career-high 7 blocked shots. Kelvin Goodwin rounded out WLU's double-figure scorers with 14 points – all but 2 coming after intermission.
Austin Cunningham's 25 points paced six double-figure scorers in a balanced Shepherd attack.
"The amazing thing to me is that we were able to lock it up with four or five games still left to play," Crutchfield said. "We'll enjoy it for a couple of hours tonight and then come back tomorrow to get ready for a very good Fairmont State team on Saturday."
The Hilltoppers travel to Fairmont Saturday afternoon for a 4 p.m. tipoff.
X Thursday's win clinched the No. 1 seed in next month's MEC Tournament for West Liberty while dropping Shepherd into a 3-way tie for second with Charleston and Fairmont State
X The top four seeds receive first-round byes in the inaugural 12-team event
X This was the Hilltoppers' 16th 100-point game of the season and their 160th during Jim Crutchfield's 10 years at the helm
X West Liberty is 151-9 under Crutchfield when reaching the century mark
X The Hilltoppers improved to 100-3 in their last 103 home games at the ASRC
X West Liberty has now reeled off 15 straight wins against Shepherd. The Hilltoppers hold an 85-53 lead in the all-time series
X Devin Hoehn drained his team-leading 67th 3-pointer Thursday night, breaking Seger Bonifant's 1-year-old WLU freshman record of 66 bonus bombs

West Liberty Clinches MEC regular-season title

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