WHEELING - More than 100 fans of all ages lined National Road in Woodsdale on Sunday to welcome the West Liberty University Hilltoppers home after their disappointing loss to Central Missouri in the NCAA Division II national championship game.
"We're proud, very proud," said area resident Kirck Collins as he waited with family and friends to welcome the team's bus home late Sunday afternoon. For Collins, the Hilltoppers have personal relevance because his son is an alumnus of West Liberty University, graduating three years ago.
After following their team through a highly successful season to see them come in as runners-up, fans had mixed emotions as they waited.
HAPPY HILLTOPPERS — Jim Hohman, from left, Cindy Sampson, Ned Sampson, Ellie Templin, Brenda Thomas, Carol Loew and Madison Templin wait for the return of the West Liberty University Hilltoppers in Woodsdale on Sunday. - Daniel Dorsch
"We're sort of sad but still very proud," Cindy Sampson said.
"I think they did a heck of a job," Ned Sampson said. He added the Hilltoppers deserve all the support they can get from the local community.
For Jim Hohman, it was a single kind of shot which largely affected the West Liberty students as they reached the final 84-77 score.
"You live by the 3's and die by the 3's," Hohman said. "But they did a really superb job, played a really great game."
"They have nothing to be ashamed of," Jack Adams said. A devoted fan, Adams said he attended every game throughout the exciting season.
"As far as I am concerned, coach Jim Crutchfield is absolutely the best in the country," Adams said. "They played really well. They have nothing to be ashamed of."
Personnel from the Wheeling Fire Department and Wheeling Police Department provided an escort for the returning competitors and yellow towels and posters waved as the bus rolled past on its way back to West Liberty University.