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Heroes' Welcome

June 17, 2014

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In advance of the 2014 Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony which will honor the 1988-89 national runner-up men's basketball team, SHUPirates.com will take you through the moments that comprised the Pirates' magical run to the Kingdome and the Final Four - one that ignited passions, defied the odds and left an indelible mark on the program and the university alike.

On Monday, we recapped the 1989 national championship game, a tightly contested contest that saw Seton Hall fall to the Michigan Wolverines by just a single point in overtime, 80-79. Today, after coming up one point shy of college basketball's ultimate prize, the Pirates make their way back to South Orange, where they received a welcome befitting of champions.

By the time the dust settled on a remarkable national championship game, the Seton Hall men's basketball team displayed mixed emotions; melancholy, after coming so close to making history, but also, pride, for what they had accomplished as a team and how far they had come.

Those feelings were mirrored by the thousands of supporters waiting for the team to return home. Seton Hall's journey to the national championship game did more than bring pride to a campus community, it captivated the entire region, and the Pirates were the pride of New Jersey.

While in the end the difference between winning and losing was determined by the slimmest of margins, the way the Pirates played, and represented themselves and their community on a national stage, would never be forgotten. It was widely reported that immediately following the game, fans packed into bars and restaurants in South Orange applauded the team's efforts before emptying out to South Orange Avenue to celebrate a memorable season.

After a grueling 22-day journey, the morning after the national championship game Seton Hall boarded a flight home and eight hours later touched down at Newark International Airport around 9:30 p.m. There, more than 200 fans, some who had waited hours for the team's plane to land, greeted the team; the first act of what would become a three-day celebration.

At an impromptu press conference at the airport, P.J. Carlesimo lauded the unbelievable level of support his team had received from everyone who had been cheering them on from back home over the previous three weeks. From there the team traveled by motorcade back to campus, where they found a crowd of approximately 2,000 students and administrators waiting in the field house to cheer them on.

The party continued into Wednesday, as that night Walsh Gym was filled to capacity for an energetic and emotional pep rally. The following afternoon, despite cold and rainy conditions, the streets of South Orange were lined with cheering fans for a parade befitting of national champions.

The team rolled down the street in Mercedes Benz convertibles, greeting spectators and signing autographs. South Orange and Maplewood schools released early that day as a result of the scheduled celebration.

Point guard Pookey Wigington addressed the crowd on the team's behalf, thanking them for their unwavering support throughout the season, and for helping to ease the pain from a narrow defeat.

This Seton Hall team had accomplished so much. In the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history they nearly strung together six victories to win it all. With a final overall record of 31-7, the Pirates tied the school record for wins in a season, matching the 31-win effort from the 1952-53 NIT Championship squad, and eclipsed 30 victories for just the second time in program history.

Although the record books would not list them as champions, they were still treated as such. The Pirates had brought national prominence to Seton Hall University and the town of South Orange, N.J., and a community could not have been prouder.

A limited number of seats remain available for the 2014 Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony to be held on Wednesday, June 18 inside Historic Walsh Gymnasium. For more information on attending and sponsorship opportunities, please click here.