BOSTON -- It all came down to one game Saturday night at Boston University's Case Gymnasium.
From the original 32 teams, only two remained in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) -- Team Barstool and the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni. The stakes? Winning team takes home half a million dollars. Losing team goes home empty-handed.
Talk about high pressure.
"Five-hundred grand, that's a lot on the line," said Fighting Alumni and former Golden State Warriors forward Rob Kurz. "I would say this is up there in terms of one of the most pressured games I've ever played."
Facing a favored Barstool team featuring four former NBA players, including 2003 Boston Celtics first-round pick Dahntay Jones, the Fighting Alumni clawed their way to a 72-68 victory, claiming the first-ever title in TBT history. Despite trailing 40-35 at halftime, the Fighting Alumni, with nine of ten members being former Notre Dame players, used their cohesive team play to quickly regain the lead and never look back.
To put it simply, teamwork triumphed over talent.
"We played so many games of pickup in The Pit -- our [practice] basketball court at Notre Dame -- it didn't really look a lot different than what we did all summer," guard Colin Falls said. "I was pleasantly surprised to see guys in shape, but it wasn't a shock."
In the tournament's first four rounds June 6-8 in Philadelphia, the Fighting Alumni defeated their opponents handedly, winning by a double-digit margin in each game and blowing out the Peaceplayers by 30 points in the semifinals. However, Saturday's contest presented a whole new challenge, with Barstool being able to choose Boston as the location courtesy of an online vote and, in addition, being able to decide how long the shot clock would last. From 45 seconds in Philadelphia, Barstool lowered the clock to the league-usual 24 seconds.
The Barstool fans also came out in large numbers, making their presence known with resonating chants of "I believe that we will win." Not to be outdone, the Fighting Alumni's fan base countered with cheers of their own, including a "Get that money" chant as the game wound down. When the clock ran out, among those who rushed the court as green and white confetti filled the air was longtime Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who celebrated with his former players.
"It was good to see our fans respond like that," guard Tory Jackson said. "It kind of felt like we were back at [the Joyce Center] ... The first few years we were at the Joyce we didn't lose so that's what it felt like."
As for the $500,000, eight of the team's 10 players will receive $50K. Falls and forward Torin Francis, who both did not play in the team's initial games in Philadelphia, will earn $40K and $10K, respectively. Of the remaining $50K, $49,999 will go to team general manager Kieran Piller, while coach Jordan Cornett will earn a whopping one dollar.
Looking back, was Piller glad that he originally made the calls to put the team together?
"I'm obviously glad, we just won $500,000," Piller said. "We might spend it all by tomorrow morning."
For his part, TBT founder Jon Mugar hopes that this year was only the start for his "March Madness for all" project that was three years in the making. When asked if they would take up the TBT on the chance to defend their title next year, members of the Fighting Alumni responded with a resounding yes.
"It's real simple," guard Russell Carter said. "Back to back."