BUCKHANNON – The West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats gave the fifth-ranked West Liberty Hilltoppers all they wanted and more today in a Mountain East Conference contest at Rockefeller Center.
The 'Cats pushed West Liberty to the limit, but unfortunately dropped a 74-72 decision.
Down 12-7 early, Chris Dewberry hit a jumper, Clay Todd made a free throw Tanner McGrew flipped in two free throws and a basket to give Wesleyan their first lead, at 14-12, with 10:50 left in the first half.
A Mo Berchie three-pointer gave Wesleyan their biggest lead of the game, at 22-16, with eight minutes remaining.
West Liberty went on a 9-0 run to grab a 25-22 advantage with 4:46 left in the opening half.
McGrew ended the run with a jumper that made it a 25-24 contest.
With the 'Cats behind 29-27, Fred Brondsted (pictured) unleased a three-pointer to give Wesleyan a 30-29 lead with 49 seconds remaining in the first half.
A pair of free throws returned the lead to West Liberty at the break, at 31-30.
West Liberty controlled the first 12 minutes of the second half as they outscored Wesleyan by a 35-19 margin to take a 66-49 lead.
Wesleyan mounted a furious comeback after that.
Soren Dossing made a three-pointer and Mo Berchie sank two foul shots, and after a West Liberty lay-up, McGrew turned in an old-fashioned three-point play that made it a 68-56 game with 5:57 remaining.
With West Liberty leading by 10, at 72-62, with 2:55 remaining, McGrew made a free throw and then a jumper that closed the deficit to seven, at 72-65.
After a free throw that gave West Liberty a 73-65 lead with 55 seconds remaining, Garrett Grantham made a three-pointer and was fouled on his attempt.
Grantham missed the free throw but McGrew tipped in the rebound to bring Wesleyan to within three, at 73-70, with 45 seconds remaining.
West Liberty milked the clock but turned the ball back over on their next possession to Wesleyan with 12 seconds remaining.
Brondsted missed a three-pointer with five seconds remaining that would have deadlocked the game and Wesleyan quickly fouled West Liberty.
West Liberty made one of two at the line to make it a two-possession game at 74-70.
Berchie took a long pass from McGrew and scored a lay-up at the buzzer for the final score of 74-72.
McGrew led the Bobcats with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Berchie tacked on 19 points and Brondsted chipped in 10.
Todd came off the bench to score seven.
Wesleyan is now 14-11 overall and 9-10 in the MEC.
West Liberty improved to 23-3 and 17-2 in the MEC.
Wesleyan will go back on the road this Saturday when they visit Wheeling Jesuit for a 4 p.m. tip-off.