WVC women's tournament: West Liberty outlasts Shepherd
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Before Wednesday afternoon's West Virginia Conference women's basketball tournament game between West Liberty and Shepherd, Hilltoppers junior guard Hillary Southworth was honored as the WVC player of the year.
Then over a six-minute span between the first and second overtimes, the Hilltoppers had to find a way to win without her.
With Southworth on the bench after fouling out, WLU erased a five-point deficit in the first overtime and held the Rams at bay in the second overtime to win 88-87 and advance to the semifinals of the WVC tournament.
"I've been very fortunate and won a lot of games," said WLU Coach Lynn Ullom, who has won 452 in his career, "and we've had very few that have ended that crazy. I'll give our kids credit, they didn't quit. They were active and dove for loose balls, were down five and managed to come up with some key plays."
Southworth, who led all scorers with 27 points, fouled out with 1:05 left in the first overtime. And when Shepherd's Gabby Flinchum hit the two free throws off that foul, the Rams (14-14) led 76-71. But the Hilltoppers (21-7) got four straight free throws from Jasmin Kiley and an Emily Blevins basket with about 30 seconds left to take a 77-76 lead. Priscilla Moseh responded by making one of two free throws with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 77 and the Hilltoppers couldn't get off a shot.
In the second overtime, neither team led by more than three, and it was WLU freshman guard Liz Flowers who scored the Hilltoppers' final points. She made a layup with 1:17 left, was fouled and cashed in on the free throw. Alex Weakland scored for Shepherd with 12 seconds to go to make it 88-87, but the Rams could get neither the steal nor the foul in the final seconds.
"They did a really good job of separating the floor out, not getting too tight, where we couldn't double team and we couldn't get in the passing lanes because we didn't know what they were doing," Shepherd Coach Melanie Ford said. "We tried to get it, we tried to get to them to foul, but we couldn't do it."
West Liberty won despite getting outrebounded 62-37 and giving up 31 offensive rebounds.
The Hilltoppers did force 25 Shepherd turnovers. The Rams scored 29 second-chance points and got a 25-point, 20-rebound performance from 5-foot-9 senior guard Emily Daniel. Flowers scored five of her 21 points in the second overtime, scoring West Liberty's first and last baskets of the period.
"We just kind of told ourselves to relax," Flowers said of those final minutes. "We spread the floor and we got open looks. Some of us other players can drive, too, and we just tried to spread the floor and, whoever got the open look, take it. Everyone contributed."
Moseh scored 20 points for the Rams, while Flinchum added 12 and Jimyse Brown scored 10. Meghan Wiseman added 14 points for West Liberty, while Kiley scored 11.
West Liberty led 26-18 in the first half thanks to a 13-4 run, with Southworth scoring eight of those points. But the Rams recovered and Moseh's 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in the first half allowed Shepherd to go into halftime trailing just 28-26.
Free throws dominated the second half, as the two teams combined for 49 in that period after shooting a total of just 10 in the first.
It was Flowers who hit the two biggest second-half free throws, making them with 16 seconds left to force overtime.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.