An estimated 2,000 fans streamed into the University of Dayton Arena on Sunday to celebrate the school’s men’s and women’s basketball season.
The celebration came less than 24 hours after the men’s team returned to campus following a defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators 62-52 in the NCAA tournament on Saturday where they had advanced to the Elite Eight.
The Flyers women’s team was defeated 83-69 by Florida on Marcy 23 during the NCAA opening round.
“I couldn’t imagine going through a season with a better group of kids,” Archie Miller, UD men’s head coach said told Sunday’s crowd. “They represented not only the university and our community well, but I think they represented the vision for our program set in stone almost four years ago.”
During his speech, in which he also thanked the fans, Miller acknowledged four senior players: Matt Kavanaugh, Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford and Brian Vonderhaar.
“All of them have come a long way,” Miller said. “All of them now will go down in history as one of best senior classes to ever play.”
Jim Jabir, the women’s head coach also thanked the fans.
“We have all you guys here to honor something that we love to do,” Jabir said. “I really believe that without your support … you are very very important to what we do. I’ve always said that it’s your team not our team.”
The men’s team moved into the Sweet 16, for the first time in 30 years, after defeating the Syracuse Orange 55-53 in Buffalo on March 22. The team advanced to the Elite Eight on Thursday after defeating the Stanford Cardinal 82-72 in an NCAA tournament regional semifinal in Memphis.
“It’s been a fantastic run,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “When you think about the last time this happened, it was 30 years ago. We certainly hope that we don’t wait 30 more years for them to get to the Elite Eight. I don’t think we will.”
Whaley, a UD alumnus, said she believes the Flyers will have another great season next year.
“The excitement in the community has been really fantastic from local businesses supporting the team to all sides of town routing for Dayton and the Flyers,” Whaley said. “I think we enjoy being America’s Cinderella city and team.”
Fans lined up more than 30 minutes early outside the arena on Sunday.
Brock Copas, 12, of Troy, who waited in line for celebration, praised the Flyers performance.
“I think they did really good to be able to get to the Elite Eight and play the number one team in the country,” Copas said.
Don LeVan, 41-year-old Troy resident, who attended the event with his son Ryan LeVan, 12, and Copas said they were huge Flyers fans.
“This team is really special,” LeVan said. “We’ve gotten to know the guys from camp. They’re real classy kids with good character. UD should be proud to have kids like this come to their school and play for their university.”
Cecil Dunaway, a 74-year-old Dayton resident and season ticket holder said the men’s team had a great season and surprised some people.
“It showed what kind of character they had,” Dunaway said. “I thought they played with their hearts. They never got down on themselves.”
Gloria Morano, UD alumni Dayton chapter president, traveled with a group of friends to Memphis to watch the tournament. She said there was a lot of Flyers enthusiasm and support from the crowd.
“When it got to be 28 seconds left, and we knew we weren’t going to be able to make up the deficit everybody started cheering, ‘We are UD,’” Morano said during an interview. “It was so much support and pride for the season that they’ve had and the way they handled themselves through this run to the Final Four … there was no disappointment among the crowd.”
The Flyers were greeted by a large crowd of fans when their bus arrived on campus early Sunday morning.
UD seniors Marissa Miroglotta, Hayleigh Raiff and Sarah Costa said they came out in the cold to thank the team for making their senior year special.
Around them dozens of fellow Flyers fans waved flags and signs, chanting praise for UD as the bus came to a halt and the players emerged.
“We’re really proud of everything they’ve done,” Miroglotta said.
Player Jalen Robinson said it was a “bitter” end to the year, but he was glad for the community support.
“I’m happy that we as a team could make the community happy,” he said.
The Breaking News Staff contributed to this report.