Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt and Loyola-Chicago got quite a reception as they returned to campus on Sunday.
Fans serenaded the 98-year-old team chaplain and newfound celebrity with chants of “Sister Jean! Sister Jean!” as she was wheeled into the arena. They roared and screamed “LUC! LUC!” as the team walked toward the stage on the court.
Some players held up their phones and scanned the crowd, taking it all in a day after securing a spot in the Final Four. The Ramblers’ improbable run continues thanks to a convincing victory over Kansas State in the South regional final in Atlanta on Saturday night.
They’ll face Michigan in the national semifinals, and a win would put them in the championship game for the first time since the 1963 team won the title in a landmark tournament run for racial equity.
But on Sunday, Loyola was simply enjoying the moment.
“How much fun is everybody having?” coach Porter Moser said.
He didn’t have to ask.
The roars and sea of maroon and gold T-shirts let him know. Loyola senior Maggie Yarnold, seated courtside, came with a request for Clayton Custer. “Clayton when you’re done making 3’s will you go to the formal with me,” her sign read.
The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority’s formal at Chicago’s Willis Tower figures to be quite an event and Yarnold likes her chances.
“I think it’ll be hard to say no,” she said.
Yarnold has been going to games since she arrived at Loyola and watched an unselfish team grow over the course of the season. That’s why she insisted she is not stunned by this, even if the Ramblers were seeded 11th in their region.
“They’re probably the most unselfish, well-deserving team,” she said. “They’re too dedicated for them to stop. And they’ve shown it in their skill level. They’ve improved throughout the season immensely. And they’ve learned to trust each other completely.”
The Rambers (32-5) joined LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) as the lowest seeds to reach a Final Four. The other three lost in the semis.
Loyola remains the only school from its state with an NCAA Division I men’s championship, and the Ramblers are the first to get this far since Illinois lost to North Carolina in the 2005 final. The last time a Chicago team reached the Final Four was when Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer led DePaul there in 1979. But now, another school under the L tracks — 11 stops north on the red line — is having its moment.
Former president Barack Obama has tweeted at the Ramblers during this run. So have just about every Chicago athlete and team.
Congrats to @LoyolaChicago and Sister Jean for a last-second upset - I had faith in my pick!— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 15, 2018
Donte Ingram didn’t even have a Twitter account. But after getting a couple shout-outs from fellow South Sider Chance the Rapper, he decided to start one.
“This is what we’ve been dream dreaming of, creating this kind of environment and having this kind of support and unity,” said Ben Richardson, who scored a career-high 23 points against Kansas State. “We’ve been having the time of our lives competing and trying to represent this university and all you guys the best we can.”
Ingram, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the March Madness logo lifted Loyola over Miami in the first round, showed up Sunday with the net around his neck.
“It’s crazy” he said. “It’s so nice to get the support from guys around Chicago and all the successful teams around Chicago. It means a lot. I’m just happy that (we made) the city of Chicago proud.”
As for that net?
“I slept in it along with the (regional championship) trophy,” Ingram said.