By Bob Kuska
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M. and drove his green Nissan Pathlnder forty-lve minutes south along the winding backcountry roads to the campus. When he pulled into the small parking lot outside Rex Pyles Memorial Arena, the college’s old-timey gymnasium with blue-and-yellow, festoon-style curtains covering the windows and a vaulted wooden ceiling that looks like the hull of an old Viking ship, Long and Markwood were waiting to introduce him to the players. Washington, a dark-complected African American who stands six-foot-four with a muscular build and a shaved head, eyed the team’s eleven players, eight whites and three blacks.
But, led by the plucky Wallace, a-b willed its way back into the contest in the second half, limiting the Lancers to 43 percent from the leld and narrowing the gap to single digits late in the game. Ironically, that’s when Zimmerman knew his team was in trouble. “With only two weeks to prepare, the players just didn’t know how to make each possession count down the stretch,” he said. “We didn’t have go-to plays and hadn’t worked on end-of-game situations. ” When the lnal buzzer sounded and Roberts Wesleyan had eked out an 85–79 victory, Zimmerman and Washington couldn’t help but smile.
Wesleyan hadn’t won a league title since 1985, and, according to Wesleyan’s veteran coach Charlie Miller, there was a good reason for the drought. In the fall of 1992, when he arrived at this small, private college in the quaint, virtually all-white central West Virginia city of Buckhannon, he had ten scholarships. Within a year the college had cut the full rides and converted them to ten tuition waivers, which meant recruits had to pick up the tab for room and board, about $6,000 per year. The next season Miller was down to six tuition waivers.