More than 5,000 Villanova students, alumni and big time basketball fans were jammed into The Pavilion to watch the NCAA National Championship game, hanging on every second of the broadcast being streamed on four megascreens around the arena.
Many of them knew what disappointmentwas like. They had witnessed early exits their entire college careers as the Wildcats faltered in the first weekend in recent NCAA tournaments.
More knew heartbreak, being on hand in 2009 when the Wildcats faltered to North Carolina in that year’s Final Four.
But some knew ecstasy, having witnessed the 1985 team defy all the odds and thwart mighty Georgetown to bring home a national title.
With the Cats and UNC Tar Heelstied at 74 with 4.7 seconds to play in Houston, thousands in Villanova blue felt their hearts beating out of their chests.
“Oh my god, it was so nerve wracking up until the very end,” Natalie Versaggi, a West Chester University student but Villanova employee and fan said.”Half our eyes were shut and then we were screaming when they tookthatshot. We were thinking ‘we can’t make it it though overtime, we are going to crumble as fans.'”
Versaggi and her family know the full palette of basketball emotions, as her father’s entire side is full of Nova alum. And she can finally relate,knowing what witnessing history is like.
As can Nova studentNariman Amin.
“I am a senior and I have been praying for this all year,” the enthusiastic fan, close to graduation,said with a beaming smile Tuesday as she celebrated Kris Jenkins’ improbable buzzer-beating 3-pointer.”When I saw the three leave his hands I was like ‘yes that’s going in,we got it.’ It was so exciting.”
Liam Wall is not a Villanova student but is a diehard Wildcats fan, and described the scene dramatically: “You could hear a cricket chirping,” the Jersey native said. “You could hear everything, man. It was dead quiet — but when it went in, it was chaos.”
Wall and his buddies had an inkling they could bear witness to history when they trekked to the Main Line Monday evening.
“We drove down here from Jersey, we knew they were going to win and here we are, with a buzzer-beater,” Wall said.” We wanted to see the game up close and personal. We didn’t want to just see it on TV. We are in college, we go to a tech school. We don’t have this experience. This is amazing.”
After thousands assembled on Lancaster Avenue, then moved to the Quad and later back to the streets in celebratory bliss, Philadelphia announced a parade would be held to further acknowledge the incredible achievement of one of their Big 5 basketball programs. A ritual that fans on campus couldn’t be more excited for.
“I think a parade should go down from Center City to the Main Line,” Aminsaid.
A parade down Market Street will have to do.