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Stony Brook returns to a warm welcome

A crowd welcomed the Stony Brook men's basketball team home Friday evening, March 18, 2016, after their first-round loss to Kentucky the night before. Stony Brook made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

For one last time during a special basketball season, Stony Brook’s players were treated to chants of “S-B-U” by a sea of red.

After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its 17 years of Division I play, Stony Brook (26-7) lost to Kentucky, 85-57, on Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa. But the Seawolves received a hero’s welcome when their bus pulled up to a crowd of about 90 students, fans and alumni on the Stony Brook campus Friday.

“We had a decent game against a great team, Kentucky, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we had a great season,’’ said Jameel Warney, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds against the Wildcats (27-8).

Warney said it “means everything” to be part of the program’s first team to reach The Big Dance. He added that the tournament was surreal — everything from competing to meeting celebrities, former NBA players and even familiar television broadcasters.

“It’s hard to make history. Coach always said that,” said the 6-8 Warney, who averaged 28.5 points and 15.3 rebounds in the Seawolves’ four postseason games. “We finally made history. This is going to be remembered for a long time. My four years here, I learned a lot and turned into an adult. It was a good four years.”

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said he expected his team to play a little better against Kentucky but added that he is proud of his players and the buzz they created among local basketball fans.

“It was a great run, a dose of March Madness here on Long Island,” Pikiell said. “We’ve got great kids that worked hard to sacrifice and do something historic. Very few chances in life you make history, and this team made history. Hopefully it’s the start of many trips to the NCAA Tournament for our program.”

Warney, Carson Puriefoy and Rayshaun McGrew, the team’s only seniors and top three scorers, will be graduating, but Pikiell is optimistic about the future.

On how the team will look without the three key players, he said: “The same as it’s always looked. Every year we lose guys, we continue to build and do it the right way and develop.

“I’m feeling really good about next year,” Pikiell said. “Every year, we lose good players. We just keep getting better. That’s what we’re going to have to do this time, too.”

New York Sports