Some La Salle basketball fans made their way to Los Angeles for the Explorers’ NCAA tournament matchup against the Wichita State Shockers.
Many of those who couldn’t filled nearly 400 seats to watch the game on a big screen at the Northwest Philadelphia university’s Dan Rodden Theater on Thursday night (and early Friday morning).
There, they screamed, cheered, held “Southwest Philly Floater” posters and waved yellow and blue pom-poms during the 72-58 loss in the tournament’s Sweet 16 round. It was the first time the Explorers had advanced that far since 1957.
Rollercoaster of anticipation
Before the game started, freshman Hayley Miles said the team would “continue to represent what I think is the best conference and city in the country.”
Throughout the game, Assistant Dean of Students Anna Allen raffled off T-shirts to the crowd, and the school provided free water bottles to all of the students who came.
At Rodden, and house parties, the enthusiasm and excitement of students who remained in Philadelphia despite there being no classes on Good Friday, turned into worry and, ultimately, acceptance of defeat.
As the last 10 seconds counted down on the clock, the crowd collectively offered up a loud standing ovation.
“I’m still so proud of them,” said senior Steph Whirtshafter. “They have come so far and done so much for this university.”
After the game and season ended, a mixture of sadness and pride swirled about campus.
As students filed out of the auditorium, they chanted and shouted for the men’s team, saying they would be warmly greeted back to 20th St. and Olney Ave., which was the scene of rollicking celebration less than a week ago, after their historic hoops run.
During the game, five or six police patrol cars stood by in case of a raucous public victory celebration, but took off shortly after the game.
A half hour later, it was a total ghost town.
What 10 students (and grads) thought of the game
“Despite what happened, they played with great heart. I grew up on this team since it is where my mother and three siblings attended. So, without a doubt, this team means everything to me when it comes to living in tradition.” – John Rossi, freshman, watched the game on campus”I wish they played more offense. Even so, I am proud of my Explorers for making the Sweet Sixteen. Oh and why didn’t [big man] Steve Zack play? What was up with that?” – Theresa Glinski, senior, watched in Manayunk at Cuddy’s
“We had a bigger heart but size was our folly. Speed couldn’t match height. The team heartened the school as a whole and despite the loss they’ll be welcomed back like they won the tournament.” – Dom Gulli, senior, watched on campus at a house party
“It’s a shame that we aren’t bigger because our size was a big disadvantage. I’m so proud of what our team did, though. What a way to go out. I very much look forward to next season as an alum.” -Sean Gubitosi, senior, watched in the Dan Rodden Theater
“I’m really proud of the team for getting this far. They had a great run this season. It was awesome to see everyone come out and support the team, and there was a great energy tonight. I think the team did a good job of doing that for the school.” – Corey Rogers, senior, watched in the Dan Rodden Theater
“Tough loss but we made a strong effort. The run is huge for La Salle — bringing back some pride to our often overshadowed basketball team.” – Dan Brightcliffe, graduated last year, watched from home in Northeast Philly
“Well, they fought pretty hard. They were really undersized. I mean, it was nice to see them go out with a fight.” – Ryan Alexander, senior, watched from home in Florida
“I thought that we played tough the second half but didn’t make up for a poor first. To me, the team gave La Salle a reason to come together and be community. We’re proud of them.” – Diana Battaglia, senior, watched from her house in Long Island
“I’m still proud of them because they displayed great skill and heart and have brought La Salle into national consciousness for the first time in years. I’m a bit disappointed in the game because it was a blowout and I feel like the team didn’t seem to be playing as well as they have the rest of the tournament.” – Julia Eastwood, senior, watched in Manayunk at Cuddy’s
“It made me realize how proud I am of the school. My heart hurt when they lost but it also burned with love for my school.” – Christina Giamo, senior, watched on campus at a house party