Though not a Red Sox fan, I live in Massachusetts, and I freely admit that watching New England’s reaction to the Red Sox improbable run to the 2004 world championship has been one of my most moving experiences as a sports fan.

Seeing an entire region, and more specifically, my town, brought together by one historic sporting event was beyond words. Seeing my entire high school galvanized by this transcendent athletic victory affirmed everything that was right about sports. And as someone that didn’t root for the Red Sox, a small part of me was jealous. I questioned whether I would ever be part of something so satisfyingly unifying.

Saturday, however, it happened.

Freshman Phenomenon

Just a freshman, my time as a Georgetown fan has been brief, and knowing what we all know about our football team, it has also been disappointing. Saturday’s match-up with Duke, however, offered me an opportunity that I doubted I would ever have.

The Hoyas’ victory over Duke was the first time – other than that Little League game where I drove in the winning run – where I felt like I legitimately had a part in our victory. I think every Georgetown fan felt that way. We came, we cheered, we conquered.

The entire Hilltop was brought together. I high-fived and hugged people I’ve never met. I shook hands with complete strangers. I embraced both a security guard at MCI Center and Ripai at Leo’s. Back on campus, Red Square was chalked, horns were honked and parties opened their doors to the masses.

I finally enjoyed that transcendent sporting event, that game that made everyone a family, that triumph that my Red Sox fan friends enjoyed 15 months ago. And it came in just my fourth-ever Georgetown basketball game.

What could be better than such an amazing win as a freshman? Every high school student dreams of following their college football team to a bowl game – that isn’t a reality at Georgetown – or storming the court at a college basketball game. The lucky few actually get to do so.

I knew our basketball team would be solid, and would certainly improve through the course of my four years, but I highly doubted that such a memorable occurrence could take place so quickly. My fellow ’09-ers and I are lucky. We had to wait just six home games (two of which took place over vacations) to witness one of the best games in Georgetown history. Congratulations to the seniors who’ve waited considerably longer. Here’s hoping there is more in store.

Where has the fear been?

It is hardly hyperbolic to say that Georgetown’s 87-84 victory puts the Hoyas back on the map. Can you ever remember Georgetown leading SportsCenter or being the feature story on Defeating Duke has people talking about the Hoyas again.

Though Saturday’s victory hardly buys Georgetown a place in the tourney, what it does for a basketball program that has struggled to make it out of the shadows is undeniable.

Georgetown has made just one NCAA tournament since the turn of the century. That came in the 2000-01 season, when the Hoyas, led by Kevin Braswell, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Mike Sweetney, made it to the Sweet Sixteen. The run was improbable in that Georgetown was just a No. 10 seed, but disappointing in that Craig Esherick’s squad fell to rival Maryland.

The Hoyas have not been a national threat since the 1995-96 campaign. Allen Iverson was the Hoyas’ anchor, averaging 25 points and guiding Georgetown, a No. 2 seed, to the Elite Eight and a 29-8 record. Unfortunately, the Hoyas were embarrassed by No. 1 UMass in the East Regional Final, 86-62.

Of course, Georgetown’s success in the 1980s, with Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and John Thompson, Jr. has been well documented. The Hoyas made three Final Fours, won the 1984 title and struck enough fear into the hearts of their opponents to make Georgetown one of the most talked-about programs in America.

Hoya Hopes

Where to now? After a victory that has energized the campus like nothing in recent memory, what are the implications for the Hoyas? How much does this do for Georgetown?

People know that the Hoyas are the real deal. Perhaps, they even fear us again. The Associated Press writers think we are the 21st-best team in the country. At the very least, the folks in Notre Dame, where we play tonight, and Cincinnati, whose team comes to MCI Center Saturday, will lose a little bit of sleep the night before they engage the Hoyas.

People that doubted that MCI could rock, and maybe even roll, have been silenced. Take it from someone who was in the midst of it all Saturday: Never have I been a part of such an involved crowd. Everyone was jumping up and down, screaming, high-fiving and making CI Center someplace that Georgetown should be proud to call home.

A friend from home commented to me after the game, “You guys are lucky to play in a place like the MCI Center.” Before Saturday’s contest, nary a person on the planet would even have thought about saying that.

If anyone doubted JT III before the game, they’ve surely changed their tune. John Thompson III’s game plan, one that was full of back cuts that finally reminded people why the Princeton offense worked, was masterful. The way his blue print evolved – deciding to use Jeff Green on the perimeter instead of Roy Hibbert down low and choosing to play savvy senior Darrel Owens for the bulk of the game – was ingenious. Let’s face it. JT III outcoached the man who many regard as the best coach in America at any level, Mike Krzyzewski, from start to finish. After Saturday’s performance, Thompson’s reputation on campus could not be any better. From the way it sounds, it was reminiscent of the days when his father walked tall on the Hilltop.

The Name Game

Georgetown’s breakout victory could not have come under better circumstances. They were playing then-No. 1. They were playing the Yankees of college basketball, the Duke Blue Devils. The CBS “A-team” of Billy Packer and Vern Lundquist were on hand to call the game.

So, with the spotlight shining brightly on the District, a number of Georgetown’s finest performances left the nation’s pundits screaming their praises.

Brandon Bowman needed a big game after a relatively disappointing start to his senior season, and, boy, did he deliver. Bowman dropped a cool 23 points and eight rebounds, as well as four assists and three blocked shots.

What is even more impressive, and will likely have scouts excited, was his decision making. Bowman, much maligned for occasional recklessness and poor choices, shot 8-of-12 from the field, including 2-for-3 from three-land. Though he did have four turnovers, he seemed cool, calm and collected when the ball was in his hands. Bowman may not have gotten himself drafted, but he certainly got himself more than just a furtive glance with his A-plus performance against Duke.

Jeff Green, after his standout freshman season, had not been scoring as often this year, and some doubted whether he was really that good. Well, he too set aside any reservations by posting 18 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Like Bowman, he took the right shots, finishing 7-for-11 from the field.

Green’s contributions went far beyond the stat sheet. The defense he played on Duke Center Shelden Williams was overwhelming, as the All-American senior forward/center managed just four points and turned the ball over three times. Green also coaxed Williams into foul trouble.

Simply put, Jeff Green’s performance Saturday reminded everyone at Georgetown why he is now and will (hopefully) be for the immediate future the Hoyas’ most valuable player.

Though Green and Bowman stood out the most – as people have predicted since day one of the 2005-06 season – it is impossible to ignore the rest of the team. Indeed, it was what Georgetown was able to do as a cohesive unit that made this win special. Ashanti Cook, Darrel Owens and Jonathan Wallace also scored in double figures. Hibbert grabbed four clutch rebounds, and Jessie Sapp helped man the point for 12 minutes without turning the ball over.

Onward We Go

What Georgetown did was special. It was historic. It was powerful. And it brought us together. Jan. 21, 2006 will be remembered on the Hilltop for years to come. No one can take that away.

Yet, the power and effect of the win can still be lost. If they disappoint tonight against a reeling Notre Dame, or fall on Saturday at home to Cincinnati or let up later this year against the lowly USF, the Hoyas’ win over Duke will be one pro among many cons when the selection committee gets together to decide who goes dancing.

And, if people stop coming out to the games, if MCI Center stops rocking and rolling, the home court advantage that we, the fans, gave to the Hoyas will be for naught. The fear will be forgotten.

Most importantly, though, if the Hoyas slow down, if the fans stop caring, that incredible, unspeakable euphoria we all felt Saturday afternoon will be a thing of the past. The hugging, high-fiving and hand shaking will be history. That unity that we enjoyed will be just a memory.

Duke was a miraculous first step. Let’s hope that Georgetown keeps on walking.

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