SAN ANTONIO – Sometimes there can be a single image that can capture the emotion of the moment.
For Loyola’s defeat in the Final Four on Saturday, that came courtesy of Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer.
Raw Emotion in the Moment: Friends since youth, high school and @RamblersMBB teammates Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson share an emotional moment as they leave the floor after a #FinalFour National Semifinal loss to Michigan. @WGNNews pic.twitter.com/93VtTEOjCU
— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) April 1, 2018
Friends since childhood, teammates since high school, the two guards became overwhelmed with emotion as they walked off the Alamodome floor towards the locker room following the 69-57 loss to Michigan.
The tears were not only for a memorable season just come to an end, but the conclusion of the playing days for the teammates. Richardson’s eligibility is up while Custer still has one more year with the Ramblers, and at that particular moment it was hard to bear.
“It hurts to have this be the last one. We wish that it could have ended better,” said Richardson after the game. “We believe that we could have gone on. But I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of each and every one of these guys, and I’m proud of Clay.”
Those words from Richardson came through tears, but the message was clear: What happened over the past few weeks won’t be overshadowed by ten bad minutes in the second half against the Wolverines.
Sure that’s hard to accept in the moment, but most of the Loyola players fought through the tears to express their gratitude for the teammates over a season to remember.
“People are going to remember how we did it, everything the right way,” said Custer. “We’re high-character kids, we’re tough, we represent Loyola the right way. I couldn’t be happier to be on a team.”
One that enjoyed its most successful season in 55 years, and easily the second best in school history outside of their 1963 NCAA Championship squad. The Ramblers won a school-record 32 games in winning their first Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles. In the South Region, they became just the fourth No. 11 seed to advance to the Final Four in Division I tournament history.
Two of their victories came on buzzer-beaters, and their two win in Atlanta to make the Final Four brought the school attention like they’ve never seen. In the process, as Custer mentioned, the school was showed with positive praise, from the way the team played to the internationally famous Sister Jean.
“I just want them to think we did it right,” said freshman Cameron Krutwig, who will reap the benefits of this run for three more years. “We’ve got local kids, we’ve got guys who won from high school. and we’ve got guys who bought into everything that coach has said.”
Needles to say, that coach was just as quick to point out just how much this team changed their community positively for the near and longterm future.
“The more you invest in something, the harder it is to give up. And they didn’t want to end it. And they have so much to be proud of,” said Moser. “They changed the perception of a program. They changed the perception of when you say Loyola Chicago, for men’s basketball, they changed that, the perception of it.
“They impacted so many lives around not only starting with our campus and then it spread on high character kids playing their tails off unselfishly.”
It’s something that lasts long after victory, once the tears have long since dried from the eyes of those that made it happen.