St. Peter’s Final Four fairy tale ends in disappointment, 69-49

The St. Peter’s University Peacocks’ magical run through college basketball’s postseason came to an end Sunday in Philadelphia.

North Carolina punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 69-49 win over the upstart Peacocks, who captured the imagination of sports fans across America.

“Tough way to go out,” downcast St. Peter’s Coach Shaheen Holloway told reporters after the game. “Words can’t describe and explain how happy I am for this group.”

Before the Peacocks, a No. 15 seed had never advanced to the Elite Eight.

St. Peter’s forward KC Ndefo said the team huddled and reminded themselves what a remarkable journey they had experienced.

“We just told each other, just stay together,” Ndefo said. “What we did was amazing, and this is a brotherhood. Words can’t describe what we did out there; just to be happy for each other.”

North Carolina jumped out to a 9-0 lead and stretched the advantage to as much as 27 points before coasting to victory.

St. Peter’s Doug Edert, left, and North Carolina’s Armando Bacot chase a loose ball during the first half of a college basketball game in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Matt Rourke / AP

Despite this joyous March run, Ndefo said the Peacocks dressing room was an unhappy place to be after the game.

“It was definite sadness. We expected to win this game,” he said. “There was definitely emotions in the locker room of sadness.”

Holloway implored his players to leave the Wells Fargo Center with pride, guard Daryl Banks III said.

“Coach preached that we should all keep our head high because what we did is something no one’s ever done before,” Banks said. “So we’re going to head out of here with our head high.”

Just to arrive at Sunday night’s game, the Peacocks had to score improbable victories over several heavy favorites — eight-time champion Kentucky, Purdue and its dominant 7-foot-4 center, Zach Edey, and Murray State, the alma mater of NBA superstar Ja Morant.

Friday’s win over Purdue coincided with National Peacock Day, and the Kentucky shocker happened on St. Patrick’s Day.

The school boasts a mere 3,009 students (2,134 undergrads) and operates rather anonymously in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York.

While upsets are nothing new to March Madness, the sport could be reaching a new age of parity, with many of the top schools losing players after just one year, to transfers or never getting them on campus.

Just three tournaments ago, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1, Virginia.

Kansas is the lone No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four this year, following a 76-50 win over Miami on Sunday. Top seeds Baylor, Gonzaga and Arizona all went down to defeat before Sunday.

The Final Four will be composed of college basketball blue bloods who have won a total of 17 national titles.

North Carolina and in-state rival Duke will play in one national semifinal game Saturday while Kansas and Villanova are set to meet in the other.

The Blue Devils are coached by the retiring Mike Krzyzewski, who has more wins than anyone else in college hoops history.

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