WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. - Corinne Thomas scored 27 points in the second half propelling the West Liberty University women's basketball team to an 87-83 win over Wheeling Saturday afternoon inside the ASRC.
Thomas hit six three pointers and went a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line. She scored 11 straight points, featuring three consecutive threes, near the end of the third quarter to give the Hilltoppers their first lead of the second half, then had the last 11 of the game for the Black and Gold in crunch time.
West Liberty (17-11, 15-7) battled in front 20-17 after the opening 10 minutes. Wheeling (14-14, 12-10) scored the first 11 points of the second quarter and outscored the Black and Gold 20-9 in the frame to take an eight point lead into the break.
The Cardinals led by as many as 14 with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Hilltoppers chipped away and then the Thomas 11-0 run put them in front. A last second lay–in by Wheeling tied the score heading to the final 10 minutes. WLU shot 80% (12-for-15) in the third quarter and went 7-for-9 (77.8%) from beyond the arc.
After the Cardinals scored back-to-back layups to start the fourth quarter, West Liberty rattled off 10 straight points, six from Grace Faulk and four from Jenna Riccardo, to go up by six. Wheeling punched right back scoring nine of the next 11 points to take the lead back. Thomas nailed a three pointer, then the Cardinals answered again going back and forth with the lead.
Thomas scored the final 11 points for the Hilltoppers. Three free throws went down after a fouled triple attempt with 55 seconds left to turn a one-point deficit to a two-point lead. Wheeling split a pair of free throws on the next trip to make it 82-81. The Cardinals elected not to foul with a 13 second difference between the shot clock and game clock. West Liberty wound the clock all the way down. Thomas had it for the Hilltoppers and banked in an unthinkable left-handed, step-through three pointer to go up four. Thomas returned to the free throw line in the final seconds, after Wheeling hit a pair, and sank both attempts to seal the deal.
Thomas' 27 led all scorers and four Hilltoppers in double digits. Faulk scored 19 points and Karly McCutcheon 13, both draining three long balls, while Sonia Sarda posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 of the team's 19 assists, the most by a Hilltopper in a game this year.
West Liberty shot 53.8% (14-for-26) from beyond the arc and held the Cardinals to just three makes from deep.
There were 12 lead changes and seven ties in the tightly contested battle for Ohio County.
The Hilltoppers honored seniors Arriana Manzay and Sonia Sarda pregame for their contributions to the program.
West Liberty will be the five seed in the upcoming MEC Tournament and will take on No. 4 Fairmont State at 8:30 pm on Thursday, March 2. All tournament games are held at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.