PHILADELPHIA – Thousands of fans lined up in downtown Philadelphia to celebrate another sports championship with a parade, this time for Villanova University’s Wildcats.
The winners of the men’s basketball tournament rode double-decker buses along Market Street, the heart of the business district, ending at City Hall for a rally. They threw T-shirts into the cheering sea of blue and white and lifted the trophy aloft as confetti fluttered in the air.
“We do this so much in Philadelphia now I thought you guys would be tired of parades,” coach Jay Wright joked to the crowd, referencing the Eagles first-ever Super Bowl win just two months earlier.
The Wildcats’ romp through the NCAA Tournament ended Monday with a 79-62 victory over Michigan. It’s their second national title in three seasons.
Kris Jenkins, who hit the game-winning shot for the 2016 championship team, was in a convertible in the parade caravan, and gave high-fives to thrilled fans along the route.
The recent Super Bowl win wasn’t lost on fans, many of whom layered their Villanova gear with a bit of Eagles swag. Several talked about how meaningful it was to have a series of champs in the city.
“Not much winning has been done in Philadelphia, at least in my lifetime, so it’s good to see,” said Mike McGovern, a Villanova alum who graduated in 1998. He works in an office building along the parade route and was cheering the team with his dad and three young children.
Cynthia Hindman, 70, uses a walker but that didn’t stop her from taking the 1 1/2-hour trip from suburban Kennett Square to the city to watch the parade. She thinks it’s “terrific” that the Philadelphia area has had two championships so close together.
“I think it makes Philly look good,” she said.
Villanova’s suburban campus was closed and all classes were canceled so fans at the Roman Catholic university could take part.
The crowds were thin early in the morning as snow flurries sporadically fell and temperatures hovered in the high 30s, but the sidewalks filled with blue as the weather warmed. About 10 minutes before the parade set off, blue skies appeared and temperatures were in the low 40s.
At the rally, players like guard Donte DiVincenzo and national Player of the Year Jalen Brunson kept remarks short and sweet, trying to tamp down excited laughter while thanking the fans.
Junior guard Phil Booth told the crowd he had one thing to tell them, seemingly getting serious for a moment.
“From the bottom of my heart,” he said solemnly before quickly bursting into a grin and yelling: “Go cats! Go cats!”
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