CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Liberty is embarking on its own March Madness.
The top-seeded Hilltoppers claimed their third straight NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional men's basketball championship Tuesday night with an 86-63 victory over No. 3 Indiana (Pa.).
West Liberty (33-1), which captured the West Virginia Conference tournament title last month, advanced to next week's Elite Eight in Louisville, Ky. The Hilltoppers will face Winona State (Minn.), the Central Region champion, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28 at Freedom Hall.
The Hilltoppers have seemingly saved their best for last as they won all three regional games by double digits and outscored their three foes by a combined 78 points.
"I really believe at this point and time we're playing as well as we've played all year,'' said West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield. "It's so hard to get to where we're at right now ... just to get in the regionals and win the regional championship and get in the Elite Eight.
"You want to make it your year. There's no guarantee you're going to get back. We felt like [last year] we may never have that chance again and that chance is here and we want to make the most of it.''
It's the third year in a row that West Liberty has moved on to the national tournament. Last year the Hilltoppers lost to Stonehill (Mass.) 91-90 in the opening round and two years ago fell in the semifinals to BYU-Hawaii 110-101.
Tuesday's win also tied West Liberty for the Division II record of 127 victories in four consecutive seasons, matching the mark set by Kentucky Wesleyan (1998-2001).
"From the kids' point of mind they can't feel like they're happy to be there,'' said Crutchfield, whose team finished the season No. 1 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II poll.
"I think they're more excited about the possibility of winning a game than just being there. We have three seniors that have been here for all of it. For those guys it's their last chance and they're going to be ready to play."
Hilltoppers senior forward Chris Morrow earned the regional tournament MVP honors while senior guard Alex Falk and junior guard Cedric Harris earned all-tournament accolades.
Falk scored 20 points while Morrow added 18 points, six rebounds and five blocks in the title game. Senior guard Tim Hausfeld and sophomore guard Tim Dyer chipped in 12 points apiece, Harris contributed 11 points and four assists and sophomore guard C.J. Hester had 10 points and seven boards.