SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — John Wolosinczuk wanted to go undefeated and win a national championship as badly as anyone on his West Liberty basketball team.
But there is a reason why only four teams have ever enjoyed the thrill of perfection during a run to a title, and the top-ranked Hilltoppers (33-1) will never know what it’s like to experience it. At least not this year.
Their remarkable run came to an end Thursday night at the MassMutual Center in a 110-101 national semifinal loss to the unranked Seasiders (22-8).
“I never imagined we would have an opportunity like this,” said Wolosunczuk, a senior forward for the Hilltoppers. “It hurts to lose. But this whole experience has been amazing and there aren’t any other players I would rather go through this with than my teammates.”
Findlay was the last team to go unbeaten. The Oilers finished 36-0 in 2009, defeating Cal Poly Pomona 56-53 in overtime.
West Liberty was looking to not only go undefeated, but it was looking to do it with one of the highest-scoring offenses in DII history. The Hilltoppers came in averaging 111.6 points per game and were dropping in 14.8 treys per game.
All of that offense wasn’t enough to carry the Hilltoppers to perfection. They tried frantically to save their season as the game inched closer to its finish, throwing up 3-pointers that found everything but the bottom of the net.
West Liberty did shoot 44.7 percent from the field and it did drill 14 treys. But what it couldn’t do was slow down the Seasiders, who torched the nets to the tune of 56.3 percent.
“I know we had an incredible year,” West Liberty head coach Jim Crutchfield said. “Right now, it’s tough to appreciate what we accomplished because we are thinking about this game. Only one team gets to win their last game and unfortunately we are going to end our season with 33 wins and one loss.”
Evansville was the first team to go unbeaten, finishing 29-0 in 1965. Cal State-Bakersfield capped a 33-0 season in 1993 with a title while Fort Hays State went 34-0 in 1996 en route to a championship.
West Liberty seemed destined to join the select company.
Senior guard Corey Pelle certainly thought it was going to happen. He did everything he could to make it happen, pouring in 32 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
Barry Shetzer clicked for 23 points while Wolosunczuk dropped in 17 points. Alex Falk added 11 points and Chris Morrow scored 11.
“We have four seniors seniors on this team who wanted to win it all,” Pelle said. “We are feeling the pain after falling short of that goal. In a few days, we’ll realize we did something special this year. It’s just tough to deal with losing after being so close to having an undefeated season.”