The West Liberty men's basketball team has been playing at the top of its game for the majority of the season, and took one step closer to a National Championship after defeating Winona State on Thursday afternoon, 110-84.
The Hilltoppers maintained a slim lead for the majority of a first half that saw eight ties and four lead changes. They used a late 11-0 run to open up a 50-41 lead at the half.
Division II National Player of the Year Alex Falk, along with talented guard Cedric Harris each dropped in 23 points to lead the way for the Hilltoppers.
West Liberty lost in the Elite 8 during last year's NCAA Tournament. It was a win that both the team, and Head Coach Jim Crutchfield needed in order to get over the hump and into the Final Four.
"Even at halftime, with a few point spread, I felt like they would make their run and we would have to hold them off," Crutchfield said. "We kept extending the lead late in the game and we held onto the ball. Most importantly, was the fact that we didn't turn the ball over. If we don't turn the ball over then we usually end up with a pretty good shot, and we did that."
Crutchfield is a native of Clarksburg, West Virginia. He will lead his top ranked Hilltoppers into Saturday's National Semifinal contest against third-ranked Metro State (31-2) out of Colorado. The Roadrunners pulled away to a 78-65 win against unranked Franklin Pierce, N.H. in Thursday's first quarterfinal.
Tip-off between West Liberty and Metro State is set to begin at Noon on Saturday, March 30 from Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.