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West Liberty Men Win Triple-Overtime Thriller To Advance

Updated: Sunday, March 16 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. – The No. 7-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team advanced to its fifth consecutive NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championship game Sunday night with a thrilling 86-85 triple-overtime victory against No. 15 Indiana, Pa. in a regional semifinal at East Stroudsburg’s Koehler Fieldhouse.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s 3-time defending Atlantic Region champion Hilltoppers (28-3) will play for their fourth straight crown at 7 p.m. Tuesday against No. 2-ranked and top-seeded East Stroudsburg (30-1), which held off No. 5 seed Gannon, Pa., 66-58.


Sunday’s game between West Liberty and IUP, the fourth regional tournament meeting in the past five seasons between the two schools, was a tightly-played contest from the opening tap.
There were 10 ties and 11 lead changes during the marathon affair with neither team leading by more than 6 points until the Hilltoppers muscled their way to 7-point advantage midway through the third overtime frame.
With West Liberty nursing an 82-79 lead, Shawn Dyer dropped in a pair of free throws to make it 84-79 with 3:03 on the clock and Cedric Harris broke up an IUP set with a steal at the other end and sailed coast-to-coast for a layup that pushed the count to 86-79 at the 2:37 mark.


Harris and Dyer came up big for the Black and Gold down the stretch, combining for 19 of West Liberty’s 21 points in the three overtime sessions.
The Crimson Hawks, playing in their sixth consecutive regional tournament, refused to fold. Sophomore Marcel Souberbielle, who had already extended the contest with game-tying 3-pointers at the end of regulation and the first overtime, cut the gap to 86-82 with a conventional 3-point play just 20 seconds later and made it a one-possession game, 86-84, with a pair of free throws at 1:33.
The Hilltoppers ran the shot clock into single digits before a Harris 3-point try clanged off the iron but senior Keene Cockburn – who was a major factor throughout – got the ball back with a steal at midcourt with just under a minute remaining.


West Liberty once more ran down the clock before Dyer rose for a 3-point try that rimmed around and out with IUP clearing the rebound.
The Hilltoppers locked down at the defensive end and the game clock had ticked below 5 seconds before Souberbielle rolled a hotly-contested layup off the rim. A whistle sounded during the scramble for the rebound and Harris was called for a foul, stopping the clock with just eight-tenths of a second to play.


After Indiana’s Cornell Yarde made the first free throw, cutting the lead to 86-85, Crutchfield called his final timeout. Yarde’s game-tying second shot bounced high off the back iron, sending WLU to Tuesday’s regional final.
Dyer led the Hilltopper scoring parade with 24 points while Harris – who was held to just 2 points in the first half – finished with 21 points and a game-high 6 assists while going 8-for-8 from the foul line. Cockburn just missed a triple-double with 8 points, 10 rebounds and an eye-popping 9 blocked shots. C.J. Hester made his presence felt with 8 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.


Souberbielle paced IUP with 27 points and 10 rebounds while Mathis Keita added 19 points. Brandon Norfleet had 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the second overtime.


GAME NOTES


X West Liberty will carry an 11-game Atlantic Region Tournament winning streak into Tuesday’s regional final


X Making their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance this year, the Hilltoppers have a 15-5 record in tournament play


X Three West Liberty players have blown past the 1,000-point career milestone: senior Cedric Harris (2,164), junior C.J. Hester (1,375) and junior Shawn Dyer (1,245)


X Cockburn’s 9 blocked shots rank No. 2 in school history behind his own school record of 10 blocks, set two weeks ago (March 1) in the regular season finale against Wheeling Jesuit


X The Hilltoppers are 1-1 in NCAA Tournament overtime games. They dropped an 82-79 overtime decision to California, Pa. in the quarterfinals of the 2007 East Region Tournament


X IUP used only seven players Sunday night. Junior guard Devante Chance was on the court for 54 of the 55 minutes


X Hester (48) and Cockburn (47) led West Liberty in minutes played

West Liberty Men Win Triple-Overtime Thriller To Advance


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