MONTGOMERY -- If there were any justice, WVU Tech students would have stormed the floor twice Sunday afternoon.
The Golden Bears nearly pulled a men's/women's double championship at the Association of Independent Institutions tournament. The women pulled their end, downing Robert Morris-Illinois 74-71.
That was a thriller that came down to RMU's Celeste Jones' missed 3-pointer at the buzzer. The men's game was equally suspenseful, but Tech missed several opportunities and suffered a crushing 65-64 loss to Voorhees.
We could have used a Tech sweep to lifft our basketball spirits in this neck of the woods.
Think about it: West Virginia is struggling so badly, coach Bob Huggins is in perpetual mourning. Marshall's season road deficit is 194 points, which is the approximate number of times coach Tom Herrion has said, "We contributed mightily to this loss."
The University of Charleston beat nationally top-ranked West Liberty, then went down the hatch. Coach Bryan Poore suffered one of his worst seasons at West Virginia State. The West Virginia Conference is kaput.
Shoot, we were one Capital miracle from having a Kanawha Valley-free girls state tournament this week. I'm going to assume South Charleston's boys will step up this week in its regional co-final.
Call the AII tourney what you will - including a markedly shorter road to NAIA nationals than WVC teams faced back in the day - but it was one heck of a showcase for Tech's once-moribund athletic program.
Face it: Life has been crazy on that end of the valley. The school was in turmoil over its future and chaos ruled the athletic department - if you can name all the interim athletic directors in one stretch last decade, you have my condolences. The school made what was then an ill-advised decision to bolt from the West Virginia Conference.
(Now, it doesn't look so dumb. You think the Mountain East would have taken Tech?)
The football program was a belated victim, I believe. Saw part-time golf coach Scott Tinsley at the scorer's table and wondered if he was drawing up offensive plays.
The death of football is sad, but the basketball situation is not. Both teams are good stories.
Tech's women will make their second trip to the NAIA nationals, being played March 13-19 in Frankfort, Ky. The Bears chopped up the Mid-South Conference in 2006-07, but fell onto tough times since.
Coach Jenna Everhart has directed that comeback. (Husband Travis, a volunteer assistant, has joined the University of Charleston football staff as wide receivers coach.)
"This team has really grown," she said. "I've been here three years, and we've went from five to seven wins to [17-13], going to the national tournament. They've worked hard to come together as a team, on and off the court. We've done so many things to work on our team chemistry, and a lot of it comes from recruiting and bringing in the right kids that are not just good players, but are right for the university and right for our program."
The Bears took an 11-point halftime lead against RMU, but the Eagles chipped that down to a 70-68 deficit in the final minute, courtesy of a Mary Colon 3-pointer. Colon nearly stole the ball on Tech's trip to the other end, but the Bears retained possession on a held ball.