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Thanks to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the most exciting games at the South Philly sports complex this weekend aren’t by any of the teams that regularly call it home.
But as the St. Peter’s Peacocks play the Wells Fargo Center during their historic March Madness run, they’re playing a role familiar to any Philadelphia fan: the underdog that makes good on a dream.
After the Jersey City school won Friday night, beating favored Purdue 64-67 to become the first-ever No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight, they tipped a hat to the basketball team whose floor they were dancing on.
“When in Philly,” the team posted on Twitter, “PLAY THE SONG!!!”
If there was any question about what song they meant — and there really wasn’t — it was answered by the music player screenshot they photoshopped to go along with the tweet, showing the Sixers bell logo embellished with a set of peacock feathers, and the song title changed to “Here Come the Peacocks.”
The underdog story itself needs little embellishing for the basketball program at St. Peter’s University, a Jesuit school that’s been on the Division I fringes for years.
Leaky roofs that flooded coaching staff offices. Leaky roofs in the gymnasium, which was often shared with other sports or community events like bake sales. A low budget that meant assistant coaches had to volunteer to travel. An embarrassing visiting team locker room.
These are just some of the stories being shared by alums of the school’s men’s basketball program, which has been flourishing nonetheless under Coach Shaheen Holloway.
He’s been helped by the grit and determination of his players, who include mustachioed sixth man Doug Edert, star guard Daryl Banks, twin forwards and Mali natives Hassan and Fousseyni Drame, and the entire roster, which also includes North Philly native Clarence Rupert.
With North Jersey just a short car ride away, the Wells Fargo Center on Friday was packed with St. Peter’s fans for the Sweet 16 game.
It’ll likely be just as full on Sunday at 5 p.m., when the Peacocks appear again in South Philadelphia to play No. 8 North Carolina for a chance to make it to the Final Four and take the Cinderella fable to a whole new level.
The odds are long, but the coach and players are confident they can make it happen. As the team posted on Twitter: “Not even close to midnight in Philly.”