North Carolina Gets the Final Spot, Defeats Saint Peter’s for the Eastern Regional Championship
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 3/27/2022 –
All of the coveted Final Four berths are decided. On Saturday Villanova and Duke claimed their regional titles, and Kansas earned their sport earlier in the afternoon. One more regional crown was to be decided, the East where #8 North Carolina faced #15 Saint Peter’s, the true Cinderella of the tournament.
The Tar Heels will be playing on the final weekend for the 21st time as they defeat the Peacocks 69 – 49 at the Wells Fargo Center. And gave up the least amount of points allowed in a regional final. Carolina was led by forward Armando Bacot who scored 20 points and took down a career-high tying 22 rebounds, an all-time NCAA Tournament record at the school. Fellow forward Brady Manek added 19 points. Coach Hubert Davis is a rookie head coach going to the final four in his first year. He does not think about that. His emotions are focused on the players.
“It was really emotional towards the end of the game when we can finally settle in and realize we’re going to the Final Four,” said North Carolina Coach Hubert Davis. “It was something I desperately wanted for them. I was probably the most nervous I was before a game, because I really wanted them to go to the Final Four. It’s something we talked about at the beginning of the season. I told them it’s not a dream anymore, it’s reality. And for these guys to have this experience, to be able to go to the Final Four, brings so much joy to my heart.”
North Carolina needed to, wanted to, and did get off to a good start in order to squelch the hopes of the underdog to pull off another upset. Getting off to a 9 – 0 start was a harbinger of things to come in the first half.
“We wanted to play North Carolina basketball,” guard Leaky Black said. “They hang their hat on punching teams in the mouth, being the underdog, that kind of thing. We just had to let them know it wasn’t going to happen tonight. That’s pretty much it.”
With 11:40 showing on the clock Saint Peter’s was in proximity trailing 12 – 7. The worry for the Peacocks was in the shooting percentage which stood at 3 of 13 from the floor. The Heels were not much better.
Then UNC heated up and SP cooled down even further. Manek hit a three-pointer that started a 22 – 8 North Carolina run keyed by Manek who scored 7 points in that stretch and Caleb Love who got 8 of the scores as thy moved out to a 34 – 13 lead. Saint Peters made one of thirteen field goal attempts getting a basket from KC Ndefo. Fousseyni Drame and Doug Edert sank two free throws each.
In the opening twenty minutes the Peacocks shot 7 of 31. The cause?
“We came out and took three bad shots right away,” said Saint Peter’s Coach Shaheen Holloway. “Three terrible shots. And it got them run-outs. They got three easy baskets.”
“The next thing you know it’s 6-zip or 9 – 2. Those are momentum swings. And I think they did a good job having momentum and kept chipping, kept chipping. And took it from there.”
At halftime Carolina lead 38 – 19.
“We knew as a team they had good guards,” said North Carolina guard RJ Davis. “They rely on their guards play, so it was pressuring the guards and disrupting their offensive flow through the guards. Once we were able to get them on ball coverages, pick and rolls and disrupted it a little bit, it was good for us.”
Saint Peter’s did not get back-to-back baskets until the second half when forward Fousseyni Drame got three buckets in a 6-0 run. He led the Peacocks in scoring with 12 points.
North Carolina won their 130th NCAA Tournament game to set the record for most wins. They go to the national semifinal to play Duke. Need anything else to be said?
Saint Peter’s ends their magical run. The loss stings, but the players know what they accomplished.
“We just told each other, stay together,” said KC Ndefo. “What we did was amazing. Words can’t describe what we did out there. And just to be happy for each other. And for us to be the only team to do this, that’s historical. And we’re blessed for that.”
The Peacocks believed in their coach who had this message.
“They came in and made history,” Holloway said about his team, the deepest any 15-seed went in tournament history. “Point-blank, period. No one has done it. Saint Peter’s did it. Period. Saint Peter’s made it to the Elite Eight. Great story.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian