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St. Joe's Takes One More Step

Old 03-27-04, 09:23 AM
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St. Joe's Takes One More Step

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/ncaato...ndy&id=1769487

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli has a sense of history, knowing that the Hawks are on the doorstep of entering Philadelphia folklore.

Instead of running away, Martelli is embracing the moment.

"We're on the verge of a line on your résumé that they could never take away from you," Martelli said Friday in advance of Saturday's East Rutherford Region final against Oklahoma State. "We're 40 minutes away from the Final Four. It's like a getting a tattoo in the middle of your head and people will forever remember you were in the Final Four."

All of Philadelphia is uniting behind what has become the story of college basketball. The small school from West Philly refused to lose, save one game in the Atlantic 10 tournament, in a remarkable 30-1 season.

When the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday, the Hawks were the most maligned No. 1 seed. They were the consensus pick to be the first one to lose. That honor went to Stanford. Kentucky followed a day later.

Only Duke and Saint Joseph's remain from the seeding's top line.

The Hawks lived up to the seed, meeting the Cowboys in the only regional final matchup of the top two seeds.

"People think we're going to lose each game," Saint Joseph's center John Bryant said. "But we're so mentally tough that we keep pushing and pushing, even though everyone writes us off."

Delonte West hopes to celebrate Saturday night, but to do so, St. Joe's must get past Oklahoma State.

The Hawks understand that they've got to get the same kind of looks they had against Wake Forest to beat Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys are a better defensive team, so don't expect the Hawks to make 12 3s against them.

The most 3s the Cowboys gave up in a game this season was 10, which happened three times, the last time coming Dec. 30 against Samford. But the Hawks have no other choice. They can only win if they make their share from behind the arc.

"All year people have tried to take away our 3s, but we find a way to score," Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson said. "We're not one-dimensional."

The Hawks know they'll have to play one of their best games, if not their best, to beat Oklahoma State. They consider this the toughest team they'll face this season. The attempts to make this game seem pedestrian could prove pointless.

Because it's anything but, ho hum, just another game.

"This is the time of their lives, for some of these players and our staff," Martelli said. "People will forever remember this team for getting to the Elite Eight. But there's another step, and if we play 40 minutes of good basketball, we'll get there."

The Hawks are beginning to take on legendary status in Philadelphia. The Big Five has united behind this team -- even Temple fanatic Bill Cosby donned a Saint Joseph's sweatshirt and hat for Thursday's win over Wake Forest.

"We're representing all of Philadelphia right now, and it feels great, knowing we have all the support coming out of a great basketball city like Philadelphia," Saint Joseph's guard Pat Carroll said.

"We're kind of like the little engine that could," Bryant said. "We keep on trucking."

Martelli said getting to the Final Four could elevate his Hawks to rock-star status on their campus and in the city. It's probably already reached that level with the attention the team receives around Phily fans.

Martelli expects St. Joe's fans to turn Continental Airlines Arena into the university's fieldhouse, making it an intimidating homecourt. The Hawks started the season with an adopted home game at Madison Square Garden and beat Gonzaga. If they get to the Final Four, they'll have done the same thing in New Jersey by making this their homecourt.

The Hawks went to the Final Four in 1961. That was the era of Dr. Jack Ramsay. The team, however, only had to win two games to reach the Final Four. But even that appearance is tainted with an asterisk in the NCAA Tournament guide, indicating their berth in the Final Four was vacated.

The Hawks know they're on the verge of something special, something they couldn't have imagined a year ago.

"Every time we win, it gets crazier," Nelson said. "This is the thing that you dream about -- getting to the Final Four."

When the Hawks won Thursday, Martelli's family was in tears, overcome with emotion. If the Hawks win Saturday, Martelli might even cry.

"This is the time of the life for us," Martelli said. "My family is as invested into this as I am. I'm a basketball coach, but who I am is Phil Martelli, and I give up so much of my family time to do this. To see them so emotional and enjoying this with us -- because we may never be here again -- touches my heart."

Such raw feelings will swell from everyone involved ... if the Hawks win.

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I for one am rooting for St. Joe's. I only wish I had followed them constantly throughout the season, not just here in the tournament.

Today is definitely one of the tougher games for them. If the Hawks can makes 3's, they can definitely pull it out. It sure as hell will help if the arena is filled with Hawk fans.
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Old 03-27-04, 10:10 AM
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Go HAWKS! DO the A-10 proud! I hope you face Mumbles and the Sled Dogs and beat the Crap out of them!

Last edited by Doc Moonlight; 03-27-04 at 10:13 AM.
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Old 03-27-04, 10:11 AM
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its over
bill just jinxed them

everyone thank bill
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Old 03-27-04, 01:31 PM
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Yeah, all my fault! It would be a true jinx if I bet them.
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Old 03-27-04, 09:15 PM
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Way to go Bill

or should I say thanks? Seeing as how I have the Cowboys winning it all
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Old 03-27-04, 09:17 PM
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yeah yeah....hell...when I first read this article, I felt Bill Cosby was the jinx!
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