West Liberty’s run in D-II tourney ends in semifinals
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jonathan Morse, Brandon Jefferson and Nicholas Kay each scored 17 points, helping Metro State overcome a second-half rally by top-ranked West Liberty for an 83-76 victory Saturday in the NCAA Division II semifinal.
The third-ranked Roadrunners had a 16-point lead in the first half, but needed that trio to hold off the Hilltoppers in the second period.
West Liberty (34-2) rallied within 69-68 with 3:02 left on a three-point play by All-American Alex Falk, who scored 28 second-half points and 34 overall. Metro State went on a 9-1 run, with Jefferson scoring five points, Morse making two free throws and Kay adding a layup for 78-69 lead with 1:05 left. The Roadrunners clinched the game with five late free throws, finishing 27 of 35 from the line.
Demetrius Miller added 15 points and Mitch McCarron 14 for Metro State (32-2), which advanced to the April 7 final in Atlanta against Drury, a 107-97 winner over defending champion Western Washington in the second semifinal.
The Roadrunners will be seeking their first national championship since winning titles in 2000 and 2002.
“When they got it to one point, I don’t think anybody on our bench was panicked like we’re in trouble,” said Metro State coach Derrick Clark, whose team played without a timeout for the final 14 1/2 minutes. “It was just time to make a play, and that’s what we did. We just continued to answer any kind of a rally they made and that’s a credit to our guys and their toughness.”
McCarron had a game-high 16 rebounds for the Roadrunners, who also got nine boards each from Kay and Morse.
The balanced box score typified the season for Metro State, which entered the game with its starters averaging in double figures. That mix of offensive and quickness helped the Roadrunners take control early and eventually withstand West Liberty’s numerous comeback attempts from beyond the arc.
The Hilltoppers attempted 47 3-pointers and made just 13, but two by Falk helped cut into the Roadrunners’ lead. He did most of his damage driving to the basket and seemed on the verge of completing a stunning rally for the West Virginia school before its 20-game win streak ended.
“I just saw some lanes open up and tried to drive the lane and create for other people,” Falk said. “But really, overall, I just didn’t shoot very good in the second half. It was tough going for us for a while, we made a run, but they just pulled away from us at the end.”