THE BLACK & Gold magic carpet ride came up just a tad short.

West Liberty University’s men’s basketball team enjoyed a season the Ohio Valley will not soon forget. The Hilltoppers have enjoyed many a fine season under Coach Jim Crutchfield, but none equalled the one which just ended in Evansville, Ind.

West Liberty has become a major player on the national basketball stage. The Hilltoppers played for the ultimate against Central Missouri Saturday afternoon — the national Division II championship.

As fate would have it, a passionate and valiant effort by the Hilltoppers came up just a few buckets short, falling to the Mules by an 84-77 count.

The loss will sting for a while. Getting so close to a national title and not being unable to seal the deal is obviously a tough pill to swallow.

Time will fade the pain and bring back into focus the glorious achievements by West Liberty this season — and there were many.

First and foremost, it marked the first time West Liberty has played for the national hoop title.

The Hilltoppers captured the conference’s regular-season crowns en route to a 31-win campaign. Crutchfield’s crew also led the nation in scoring.

It was a special season on the hilltop. One that set the entire Ohio Valley sports fan base abuzz. A title-game setback does nothing to dampen that enthusiasm.

Crutchfield’s teams have forged a regular entry into the Division II Elite Eight. We do not expect that will change as the Toppers’ system cultivates continued success.

We salute West Liberty men’s basketball season on a magnificent season. We also look forward to many more to come.