La Salle fans erupt over reaching NCAA Tournament

They're in: La Salle coach John Giannini rejoices with (from left) Tyreek Duren, Tyrone Garland and Taylor Dunn after the Explorers learned their NCAA tournament fate. La Salle will play Boise State in a first-round game Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The news about the Explorers was greeted warmly on campus. A8.
They're in: La Salle coach John Giannini rejoices with (from left) Tyreek Duren, Tyrone Garland and Taylor Dunn after the Explorers learned their NCAA tournament fate. La Salle will play Boise State in a first-round game Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The news about the Explorers was greeted warmly on campus. A8. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 19, 2013

They waited 21 years, but the last hour was the most excruciating of all.

Cheers erupted Sunday night in the La Salle University student union when fans learned their men's basketball team would compete in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.

"This is incredible," La Salle senior Sean Hurley said. "This is history."

He was standing at the front of the theater, where at least 150 students and alumni, waving pom-poms and chanting "LSU," had watched the CBS Selection Sunday show on a big-screen TV.

The news they had long dreamed of was delivered in the closing minutes: La Salle would take on Boise State in a tournament play-in game Wednesday. It was the last matchup announced in a field of 68 teams. The stage suddenly filled with revelers, jumping and hugging.

"They kept it down to the wire," Hurley said, pausing to slap hands with members of the Explorers team as they ran into the theater.

Another student said he was "still trying to calm down without shaking."

After losing to Butler on Friday in the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament, the Explorers, who had a 21-9 record, didn't know whether they'd make the cut.

If they beat Boise State in Dayton, they will face Kansas State on Friday in Kansas City.

Temple and Villanova also earned berths in the NCAA Tournament. But for novelty, nothing topped the selection of La Salle, a Catholic university of 7,300 students.

"I was, like, legitimately tearing up," Gregg Gethard, 35, of Roxborough, said minutes after the announcement. "I still am."

Gethard, who earned an undergraduate degree from La Salle in 1999 and a graduate degree in 2007, has been going to nearly every home game for years, "even when they've been terrible," he said. "And they've been terrible at times."

This season was different. In one week in January, the Explorers beat Butler and Virginia Commonwealth University, teams that also made the tournament.

"It's been very exciting - a lot of big games," said David Rudenstein, also known as the La Salle Screamer.

Rudenstein, a 57-year-old trial lawyer who started leading cheers during games in 1973, said the team's recent successes had revived its fan base.

"We had periods of time when we just didn't have fans," he said. Now, "we're looking forward to good things."


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232 or mhanna@phillynews.com.

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