Wiseman ends successful season at WLSC
The University of Charleston crashed West Liberty’s “3-party” with a late rally in the championship game of the West Virginia Conference tournament Saturday, March 7, at the Civic Center Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles scored 11 of the game’s final 12 points over the last 3 1/2 minutes to hand the Hilltoppers a heartbreaking 64-59 loss.
Charleston (25-6) clinched the league’s automatic bid to this week’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament with the victory.
West Liberty (24-7), which suffered only its second loss in the last 20 games, hopes to receive an at-large invitation when the field is announced later today.
“West Liberty absolutely should be in the (NCAA) tournament,” said Charleston head coach Sherry Winn. “They came on so strong at the end of the season. I was extremely impressed by their execution and effort tonight. That’s a very good basketball team.”
The Hilltoppers drained seven 3-pointers in the first half alone to lead by as many as 11 points before settling for a 34-29 lead at intermission.
The second half became much more of a defensive struggle between two of the top defensive squads in the conference.
“Defense was the reason we went from a 3-4 team in December to a team that was 30 seconds away from winning the conference tournament,” said West Liberty head coach Lynn Ullom, “but Charleston plays defense, too.
“If you look back at the really great teams from this conference, they all had one thing in common. They could guard people.”
The Eagles slowly chipped away at the deficit and finally squeezed ahead, 48-47, when Jihan Williams found Tarenna Dixon on the block for a layup with 7:27 to go.
The lead proved short-lived as Tori Hansen dropped in a floater as the clock turned under 7 minutes and Laura Malernee followed with a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 52-48 lead with 6:24 on the clock.
Malernee’s fifth 3-point basket of the game was a historic one as it gave the 5-11 sophomore an NCAA Division II record total of 146 3-point baskets for the season.
West Liberty seemed on the verge of putting the game away when Hansen curled inside for a layup that made it 58-53 with 3:31 to play but it only served to set the stage for Charleston’s game-winning run.
Charleston tied the game for the final time, 58-58, on Ali Tobias’ only 3-point basket of the game with 2:41 to play.
After the teams traded several empty possessions, Cassie Smith gave the Hilltoppers their final lead of the night by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 44 seconds remaining.
But Williams answered with two free throws at the other end for a 60-59 UC lead with 32 seconds remaining. Charleston finished off the run with four more free throws after West Liberty committed back-to-back turnovers in the final 20 seconds.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said an emotional Ullom. “You talk about playing for championships and you battle every day from the start of school with that as your No. 1 goal. I love my kids and to come within 30 seconds of achieving that only to have it taken away from you…” he paused. “This is hard.”
Williams led Charleston with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Tiana Beatty and Veronica Carman added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Malernee and Hansen paced the Hilltoppers with 15 points each. Evelyn Woods had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Former Tyler Consolidated standout Meghan Wiseman provided strong inside presence for the Lady Toppers with five points, seven rebounds and two assists coming off the bench to play 23 minutes.
“I’m so proud of this team and the way they grew up this season,” Ullom said. “We put together a pretty incredible run down the stretch and we had great senior leadership from Julie Cessna, Evelyn Woods and Cassie Smith.”
With the loss, Meghan Wiseman ended a strong freshman season for Coach Ullom and the West Liberty Hilltoppers as they were not selected to play in the NCAA Division II tournament.
She appeared in all 31 games for the Lady ‘Toppers, averaging just under 16 minutes a game.
Despite coming off the bench, she appeared near the top of many statistical category lists for West Liberty.
Her team-leading 24 blocks accounted for nearly a quarter of the teams total. She was a force rebounding the ball as well, accounting for 130 rebounds (4.2 rpg), good for fourth on the team. Her 34 offensive boards placed her third on the team.
Wiseman’s offensive abilities were also helpful as she shot 46.4 percent from the floor field which placed her fifth on the team. She scored 128 points total, a 4.1 average, good for seventh on the team.