Columnist supports Palestra court-storming
As the final buzzer went off on La Salle’s 90-89 win over Saint Joseph’s at the Palestra on Monday night, there was no stopping the students. There were three 60-year-old security guards who would pointlessly stand in the way, but there was no denying these 18-22-year-olds their due.
Did we beat the best team in the country? Not exactly. The best team in the conference? Not really. The best team in the city? Nope.
But the students were coming. They were going to jump around and hug each other. They were going to high-five strangers, and they were going to lift the giant heroes who most students have never spoken to into the air.
So why was this a no-doubt-about-it court-storming moment? Why was this win so special? Simple: it was unquestionably the biggest win that any current student has seen at La Salle.
Seniors were going to scream praises and admiration for freshmen whom they’ve never met. Juniors were going to bask in the moment of seeing the most prolific three-point shooter in the school’s history. Sophomores were going to appreciate the incredible impact that their classmates have made to the program in just two years. Freshmen were going to realize once and for all that they absolutely made the right choice by going to La Salle.
It was going to happen, and those three security guards would have needed stunguns to stop the Explorer Entourage.
The basketball team is the main athletic draw at this University. There is no doubt about it. Students don’t come out for baseball games or soccer games, and they don’t come out for field hockey or volleyball games. Our track program is really our only elite team in the Atlantic 10, and most of the student body couldn’t pick anyone except Sean Quigley out of a lineup.
This is not meant to be detrimental to any of the other programs or student-athletes at La Salle, but when people think Explorer sports, they think basketball.
Two years ago we were the number-four seed in the A-10 tourney, and our dreams of an NCAA or NIT berth were dashed by Fordham. We were so close, and it was snatched away.
Dr. John Giannini and Company didn’t even make the Atlantic 10 tournament last season. They were not in the top 12 of a 14-team conference. The A-10 isn’t exactly the ACC or the Big East, and we were one of the worst teams in it. The preseason forecast wasn’t much brighter, as the Explorers were projected to finish 13th by coaches and media.
As 13.5 point favorites, this was supposed to be a fairly agreeable day at the office for Phil Martelli and the Hawks. They had size, speed and defense in their favor, and it seemed a few guys in striped shirts were also pulling for them.
They shot a remarkable 63 percent from the floor and they scored 89 points in 40 minutes. Teams don’t put up those numbers and lose. Ever.
Saint Joe’s was making everything. Every time La Salle went on a run, the Hawks matched or topped it. There was a palpable sense of fear even when the clock showed one second on the clock. We had done too much to lose this game, and there was a terror that it was going to be stolen from us.
But then something happened that was a rarity for this team this year. They finished just as strong as they started. They overcame deficits, they overcame shaky officiating and they overcame what was probably a more talented team. The only thing that La Salle had on its side was heart. And when the clock finally struck zero and showed La Salle 90, Saint Joseph’s 89, that heart spilled out onto the floor.
There was no question that the Entourage would storm the court. We couldn’t have stopped ourselves if we wanted to. Those three old men? Forget about it.
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