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Marlins’ Tom Koehler proud of Stony Brook’s NCAA Tournament breakthrough

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Stony Brook men's basketball players Carson Puriefoy and Jameel Warney, alongside head coach Steve Pikiell, speak to media about their come-from-behind win in the 2016 America East Conference final, earning them a bid to NCAA Tournament. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

JUPITER, Fla. — Tom Koehler was like any other Stony Brook fan on Saturday. Hoping and waiting and rooting hard that this would be the year the Seawolves made the NCAA Tournament.

Koehler, a righthanded pitcher for the Miami Marlins and member of the Stony Brook class of 2008, got his wish when the Seawolves beat Vermont, 80-74, in a thriller to finally win the America East Tournament championship and earn the school’s first trip to March Madness.

“Amazing,” said Koehler, who pitched against the Mets in a spring training game Sunday. “Every year I watch them in the finals and I hope that’s the year. To see them finally get there, it’s huge for the school, it’s huge for every alumni. I spoke to a bunch of guys I haven’t spoken to in years. Everybody’s so fired up about it.”

Koehler stays close to the program and attended a game at Stony Brook in January. He’s seen it grow into a program he thinks can continue to bring increased prestige to the school.

“Now people will recognize when you say where you went and you say ‘Stony Brook,’ ” he said. “It’s great for the program. It’s going to be great for recruiting. I know they’re trying to really make that a powerhouse basketball program out on Long Island, and why not? They should.”

After Jameel Warney’s 43-point performance in the title game, Koehler said Stony Brook’s first-round opponent — which turned out to be Kentucky — should not expect a cakewalk.

“They’re a dangerous team,” Koehler said. “They’re one of those teams I don’t know if you want to see in the first round the way Warney played. I mean, he carried the team. You’ve got 43 points when your team scores 80? That’s putting the team on your back and making sure you get to the [NCAAs]. I’m fired up about it. Hopefully they can go deep and make one of those Cinderella runs.”

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