Through all the adversity, and the continuous losses that kept racking up, the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team’s seniors never lost faith.
Several years ago, the Peacocks were at the bottom of the barrel, fresh off back-to-back single-digit season wins. The current group of seniors won six games as freshman. Yet, they kept their chins up, taking blow after blow, hoping their determination to succeed would eventually pay off.
“We stuck together. No one has plans of leaving. We focused on getting better every year,” senior Ryan Bacon said. “Even the next year when we still didn’t win as much as we wanted too. We kept believing that every year was going to get better and our senior year we knew it was the year.”
Monday, the seniors’ toughness and hard work came to fruition as they won the MAAC tournament with a 62-57 win over Iona. The Peacocks won the MAAC title for just the third time in school history and the first time since 1995, as they upset the top two seeds in back-to-back games to bring home the title to Jersey City.
The five seniors who gutted and tasted the fruit of success were Bacon, Nick Leon, Wesley Jenkins, community college transfer Jeron Belin and Jordan Costner, who missed this season with an injury. Belin has only been at St. Peter's for the past two seasons.
“We was a program that kept rebuilding and we kept faith,” Leon said. “After (in 2006-07) losing (17) games in a row we kept faith and the master (coach) he put the pieces together and we just put it together as a family, together as a team and we just believed that we could do it and we did it.”
Head coach John Dunne took over the reins in 2006-07, but struggled out the game. His first season the Peacocks were 5-25, including a 17-game losing streak. Leon is the only current senior who was at the school for that year, although he did not play.
When this current group of seniors came in as freshman 2007-08, the squad went 6-24. Their sophomore years were 11-19, putting them at 17-43 their first two seasons. Last season, Saint Peter’s seniors finally had a winning season, but had yet to win a game in the MAAC tournament. That finally changed this year.
From the first day of the season, the players knew they had a senior-oriented team returning and wanted to finally make some noise in the tournament. They credit their togetherness and their closeness, forged by much bickering through the years, as a critical part of their run. They believed in each other, believed that they could get it done as one.
The group won its first game in the MAAC tournament in the quarterfinals against Loyola before upsetting Fairfield. While they had lost twice to Iona in the season, a strong defensive effort halted the Gaels and handed the Peacocks the title.
When they entered four years, the program was in bad shapes by their own accord. Now, they leave it as champions.
“We knew we were going to have same team back wanted to come back and play hard this year,” Jenkins said. “We got the first win the MAAC tournament and last win too. We’re feeling good right now."