The NCAA West Regional champions returned home to Chico Tuesday morning, and they weren't alone.
The Chico State men’s basketball team got a very warm welcome from fans. Chico State clinched the title over Stanislaus State in San Bernardino in a nail biter Monday night.
The team wasn't expecting many people to show up, but after word of their come from behind victory leaked, hundreds wanted to make sure the team got the welcome home they deserved.
Fans, family, friends, and Chico State staff gathered outside Acker Gym to welcome the team. Balloons hung along Warner Street, and creative signs were made as fans waited anxiously for the champs to arrive
Then around 11:30 a.m., the moment came. The team arrived in a charter bus and raised the trophy high.
Fans got the chance to congratulate the team, and the young fans got their autographs. The team also brought back a few souvenirs the basketball nets from the game.
“It’s a different feeling actually being here and holding the trophy in front of all of these fans,” said Chico State Rashad Parker. “Hard work does pay off.”
“We are all on Cloud 9,” said Chico State coach, Greg Clink. “We are extremely excited to be able to accomplish what we did and do it the fashion we did made it that much more dramatic.”
Monday night, the Wildcats were down 16 points with 12 minutes to go, but they came roaring back.
“The situation looked bleak,” said Parker. “You don't want to give up and continue to fight through, and that's what we did and came out victorious.”
“At the same time, it didn't feel like it was the last game,” said Chico State forward, Amir Carraway. “It's hard to explain but, thinking subconsciously we are not ending it like this.”
Carraway was the one who scored the winning shots in the final seconds at the free throw line. He was also named MVP.
“I wouldn't be in that situation if it wasn't for my teammates,” said Carraway. “Throughout the season, they've trusted me hit the big shots and had 100 percent confidence to knock down free throws.”
The Wildcats will now head to Evansville, Indiana to compete in the Elite 8. They still have to wait for other games to finish up Tuesday night to see who they will be facing in the first round.