West Liberty posted an 85-75 victory over the Drury Panthers in the NCAA-II Elite Eight Wednesday night at the Ford Center in Evansville, IN. The loss ends the hopes of a Division II championship repeat.
Seger Bonifant came off the bench to hit all seven of his shots – including 6 of 6 from 3-point range – to lead the Hilltoppers (30-3) into the national semifinals. Central Missouri will play Metro State in Thursday’s other semifinal game.
Drury finished 28-4 and with wins of 51 of its last 55 games dating back to last year’s 23-game winning streak at season’s end that produced the program’s first NCAA-II national title.
West Liberty’s 6-foot-7 sophomore made all five of his trey attempts in the second half, including three in a stretch of 1:04 with just over six minutes left that turned a 61-60 Hilltoppers lead into a 70-60 advantage with 5:10 to play, and Drury never recovered.
The Panthers – who had won their last 49 games when they shot 50 percent or better – made just 43 percent of their field-goal attempts (24 of 56), and after opening 4-of-6 from 3-point range, finished at 6-for-13.
West Liberty, the nation’s scoring leader at 101.5 points per game and making its fourth straight appearance in the Elite Eight, shot 44 percent (27 of 61) from the field, including 11 of 30 on 3-pointers. The Hilltoppers turned it over just nine times to Drury’s 12, but nine of the Panthers’ miscues came after halftime.
“I’m really proud of these guys up here,” head coach Steve Hesser said. “Nobody expected us to be here. We lost three outstanding seniors last year, and it didn’t take these guys long to figure out we played in front of the biggest crowds on the road that our opponents had for the year, and these guys had to really do things and be a team … I’m just really, really proud of them.”
Story courtesy of DruryPanthers.com