Rudy Wallace dribbled slowly upcourt surveying the floor. As he crossed half court, the championship game knotted at 86, thirty-five hundred fans rose to their feet inside the Charleston Civic Center for the final twentyfive seconds. Could Wallace’s Alderson-Broaddus College Battlers upset small-college power University of Charleston to win the 2002 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) postseason tournament? Was it, as some claimed, their destiny to advance to the “Big Dance” and a date in the NCAA Division II national tournament?
As Wallace stood dribbling near midcourt awaiting final instructions from the bench, his coach Greg Zimmerman intently eyed the clock, his head bobbing with each tick, then rose from his seat with exactly fifteen seconds left in the game to motion for a time-out. The referees immediately blew their whistles, and the lower level of the two-tiered arena promptly broke out into competing, slightly twangy chants of “Go A-B” and “U-C, U-C.” Zimmerman, tall and trim, his white dress shirt soaked in perspiration, gathered his players along the sideline and called out in his deep, raspy voice a play known as “Stagger.” It would put the ball in the hands of his leading scorer, Kevyn McBride, on the far right wing, where, if all went well, he would have about eight seconds to maneuver for the game winner.
Zimmerman, finished with the white greaseboard smeared in bright blue ink, glanced up and asked his players if they had any last-minute questions. Before breaking the huddle, he turned to McBride, a white, six-foot-four senior forward with short black hair and boyish good looks, and asked in a half-serious, half-joking monotone, “Can you make the shot, Jimmy?”
Jimmy was Jimmy Chitwood, the hero of the movie Hoosiers who sinks the game-winning shot to clinch the Indiana state high school basketball championship for his small town. Many around the WVIAC had called Zimmerman’s team “real-life Hoosiers,” a reference to his underwhelming roster of mostly slow-footed white kids from the hills of southern West Virginia. Zimmerman had even shown Hoosiers to them a few weeks earlier during a road trip, and the A-B players had jokingly embraced the image as their own.