Late Rally Comes Up Short for WLU Women

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – A short-handed West Liberty University women's basketball team saw a thrilling late-game rally fall short here Wednesday night as Concord held on for an 88-81 victory inside the ASRC.

   Playing without three injured starters, Coach Kyle Cooper's Hilltoppers (9-4, 4-3) nearly overcame a 15-point deficit in the final four minutes before the Mountain Lions (8-4, 4-3) could finish things off at the foul line in the waning seconds.

   "Obviously a tough situation tonight, especially for such a young team," Cooper said, "but I'm so proud of these girls. They attacked the opportunity head on, played together and fought like heck for each other. They never backed down for one second and that's what makes this such a special group."

   With a trio of double-figure scorers unavailable and only seven West Liberty players in uniform, Cooper said he needed his two remaining starters - Audrey Tingle and Corinne Thomas - to lead the way and that's exactly what they did.

   Thomas scored 26 of her game- and career-high 32 points in the second half – 12 of them coming during the frantic final four minutes – while Tingle notched the second triple-double of her career with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

   "They're great vocal leaders who get tremendous respect from their teammates," Cooper said. "We needed them to step up and lead by example tonight and they really came through.

   Corinne didn't shoot well at all in the first half but instead of putting her head down and going through the motions, she came out in the second half and just lit it up. Audrey makes incredibly tough shots and pulls down impossible rebounds against kids 6-8 inches taller while creating great chances for her teammates and going all out on every possession. We couldn't ask for anything more."

   Neither team led by more than six points in the first half but a 12-2 Concord run early in the third quarter pushed the margin into double figures and the Mountain Lions took a 63-52 advantage into the fourth quarter.

   Concord seemed about to coast into the winners circle when All-American center Riley Fitzwater cashed in a conventional 3-point play for a 77-62 lead – matching the Hilltoppers' largest deficit of the night – with just over four minutes remaining.

   Thomas answered for WLU with back-to-back 3-pointers in a 20-second span and West Liberty scored 17 of the next 21 points to make it a four-point game, 83-79, with 1:14 to go.

   That was as close as the hosts could get, however, as Concord went 5-for-7 from the foul line in the final 53 seconds to seal the win.

   Grace Faulk backed Tingle and Thomas with 10 points and 3 steals while freshmen Jenna Riccardo, Anna Lucarelli and Paige Julian added 9, 8 and 7 points, respectively, for the hosts.

   Fitzwater dominated the paint for the visitors with 31 points, 19 rebounds and 6 blocks. Alexis Phillips and Jazz Blankenship each added a dozen points with 10 points coming from Maggie Guynn.

   The Hilltoppers face another big challenge on Saturday when they hit the road to take on unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Glenville State. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. inside the Waco Center.

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