Sports

St. Peter’s sends message as they revel in March Madness run

It had the appear and feel of a highschool homecoming. 

Besides that it was a celebration for an NCAA Candy 16 participant. 

There have been balloons. 

There was a DJ spinning the standard playlist that signifies triumph (assume Queen’s “We’re the Champions”). 

Two massive video screens confirmed a working montage of St. Peter’s highlights from the primary two NCAA Match victories at school historical past, which occurred to come back previously 4 days in Indianapolis with wins over No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 7 seed Murray State. 

And there was the house gymnasium on Montgomery Road in Jersey Metropolis — capability 1,820 — filled with appreciative followers. 

The gamers affectionately known as them “Peacock Nation,’’ which fairly presumably is a nation that didn’t totally exist till this previous weekend with St. Peter’s having asserted itself as maybe probably the most stunning Cinderella story within the historical past of the NCAA Match. 

(And that story’s nonetheless in progress). 

The aircraft transporting St. Peter’s from Indianapolis touched down at Newark Airport at about 12:30 Sunday afternoon. By 1:30, with the lights turned down within the gymnasium for dramatic impact, the Peacocks triumphantly walked by a set of doorways within the nook of the gymnasium and humbly applauded the followers as a lot because the followers cheered them. 

St. Peter's players take turns delivering messages to the fans.
St. Peter’s gamers take turns delivering messages to the followers.
Stephen Yang
St. Peter's fans.
St. Peter’s followers.
Stephen Yang

Starting with St. Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway, one after the other the Peacocks gamers took turns on the microphone and delivered messages to the group. 

“It’s been an excellent experience — however guess what? — it’s not over,’’ Holloway, first to go, stated. 

“The job’s not completed,’’ added ahead KC Ndefo, who was the hero in Saturday night time’s 70-60 upset of Murray State, scoring a game-high 17 factors and including 10 rebounds, six blocked photographs and three assists. 

After numerous the gamers spoke, they mingled with the followers, posing for photos and signing autographs for a couple of half hour. 

“That is stunning,’’ Holloway stated as he seemed round. “That is what I envisioned after I took the job a pair years in the past, to have moments like this. For these guys, I simply need them to take pleasure in it. That is like … every little thing. Because of this guys come to play Division I basketball — to have this chance.’’ 

In case you listened to Holloway and his gamers, it’s a possibility they really consider has solely simply begun. 

“I don’t assume no person’s taking Saint Peter’s frivolously no extra,’’ Holloway stated. 

Shaheen Holloway speaks to the crowd.
Shaheen Holloway speaks to the group.
Stephen Yang

Guard Doug Edert, the Nutley, N.J., native who’s turn into equal components cult hero and folks hero together with his bushy hair, pencil mustache and deadly outside-shooting prowess, was requested by a TV reporter what message these previous two upset wins has despatched to the remainder of the event individuals. 

“I suppose to be careful,’’ Edert stated. 

Then he was requested, “How far are you able to go?’’ 

“We are able to go all the best way,’’ Edert stated and not using a trace of hesitation. “I really feel like we are able to beat everyone. We work so arduous, and with arduous work and slightly little bit of perception, I feel we are able to accomplish something. Everyone on our staff has a chip on their shoulder. Our coach has a chip on his shoulder. We thrive on that. We’re simply making an attempt to show ourselves to everyone.’’ 

Doug Edert poses with fans.
Doug Edert poses with followers.
Stephen Yang
Doug Edert speaks to the crowd.
Doug Edert speaks to the group.
Stephen Yang

Ndefo, from Elmont on Lengthy Island, stated the pilots on the aircraft experience house informed the staff they’d picked Saint Peter’s of their NCAA bracket as one of many underdogs to win. 

“That is what we dreamed about as children, and to have the ability to reside that is wonderful. It’s surreal,’’ Ndefo stated. 

“This complete journey has been wonderful,’’ Edert stated. “We love the help. It feels unreal. We work so arduous every single day in follow. We received placed on the massive stage and we’re simply making an attempt to show ourselves. It begins with our coach. He believes in us a lot that have an effect on us as gamers and we begin to consider in ourselves.’’ 

St. Peter's fans.
St. Peter’s followers.
Stephen Yang

At any time when Holloway is requested about himself and his faculty taking part in days, he deflects and says that is all about his gamers. 

“These guys labored their complete life for this second,’’ Holloway stated. “Reap the benefits of it. Reap the benefits of this stage. Present everyone what you are able to do. That’s what these guys are doing.’’ 

Via the primary week, it’s been fairly a present. With apologies to the highest seeds and their flashy, star-studded rosters, Saint Peter’s has been the star of those NCAAs. 

Now the Peacocks energy on to Philadelphia this week as one in every of 16 groups nonetheless alive for the nationwide championship. In contrast to Indianapolis, the place Kentucky and Murray State had been de facto house groups, Philly will really feel like house for Saint Peter’s, positioned simply 90 miles up the Jersey Turnpike. 

“I feel it’s going to be an excellent surroundings,’’ Edert predicted. “A fantastic place to get an enormous win.’’

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