Historic run for St. Peter’s men’s basketball team ends at the Elite Eight

The North Carolina Tar Heels won the game to advance to the Final Four

St. Peter's guard Doug Edert is a Junior from Nutley. Photos via St. Peter's University.

Saint Peter’s drive to basketball glory, which made them the stars of this year’s NCAA Tournament, came to an end Sunday night when they lost to North Carolina in the Elite Eight round of play at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The team was the first 15 seed to ever reach a regional final.

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Many New Jerseyans were elated when the St. Peter’s University men’s basketball team beat Monmouth University in early March to make the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.

And fans were at the edge of their seats as the Jersey City-based team headed into the Elite Eight round of the tournament, seeking to take another step closer to the championship game. However, that came to an end on March 28, when the team lost to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

This tournament run was already significant for the Peacocks, who last made an appearance in 2011. And their journey overcoming higher ranked teams in the East Region bracket was nothing short of a Cinderella story.

Winning streak comes to an end

St. Peter’s success began with a massive upset victory over the University of Kentucky on March 17. The fifteenth ranked Peacocks bested the second ranked Wildcats 85 to 79 in overtime, thrusting them further into the tournament and putting them in the spotlight.

The tiny Jesuit school from Jersey City made further waves on March 19 after it beat another school from Kentucky, Murray State University to advance in the tournament. The Peacocks, the fifteenth ranked team, upset seventh ranked Murray State 70 to 60 to make the Sweet 16.

The streak continued on March 25, when St. Peter’s beat the third ranked Purdue University Boilermakers. The historic 67-64 win made the Peacocks the first time ever to make it that far being the fifteenth ranked team.

Senior KC Ndefo is a forward from Elmont.

On Sunday, March 27, the Peacocks faced off in the Elite Eight against the eighth ranked University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels in Philadelphia. However, it was then that the team’s ten back-to-back winning steak, which began since before the tournament, came to an end. The Tar Heels trounced the Peacocks 69-49.

With that, St. Peter’s hopes of becoming the champion of the East Region, and proceeding to face off against the winner of the West Region in the Final Four, came to an end. The long journey is over, but the team has seen a groundswell of local support behind them.

Hometown heroes

The team has received a warm welcome from Jersey City, as well as New Jersey as a whole, who met the team at the airport to escort them back to campus when they arrived from their win against Murray State. And when they headed out for their next game, they were met with the same warm reception, with the Hudson County Board of Commissioners set to allocate $1,000 for travel expenses.

The team left for Philadelphia on Wednesday night, March 23, to fanfare and cheers from the crowd that gathered ahead of the Peacocks departure. The team got a police escort out and send-off from the city of Jersey City as they left Run Baby Run Arena with community members and fans alike displaying an outpouring of love toward the team.

From left to right: Jaylen Murray, a Freshmen guard from the Bronx, and Fousseyni Drame, a Junior forward from Bamako, Mali.

Coach Shaheen Holloway has been guiding the team, as Junior guard Doug Edert and Junior forward KC Ndefo lead the Peacocks with their stand out performances in the tournament. Holloway’s attitude, parceled with Ndefo’s defense and Edert’s mustache have made the team ripe for fanfare.

Now the Peacocks “strut” home with their heads held high. While they didn’t win the NCAA Tournament, the team managed to make history.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.