UCF fans celebrate Knights' accomplishments even after losing to Duke
Fans pack local spots to watch game, await players' returns to campus
ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite Sunday’s 1-point loss against Duke, many University of Central Florida fans were on campus, cheering hard for the UCF Knights, even packing bars and restaurants to watch the game.
"It was a great game, even up until the very last second," said UCF fan Tyrel Earnest.
UCF fans were out of their seats rooting for their Knights.
"Go Knights, charge on," said UCF fan Andrew Gamel.
In the last few seconds, No. 1 ranked Duke scored the winning shot. The final score was 77-76. For many UCF fans, the Knights are still their winners.
"To get this far, I just think it shows that we can go against the odds," said UCF fan Caitlyn Gray.
"UCF is an athletic school now. We can do anything. I think we’ve proved that within the last two years now of athletics," said Gamel.
It’s the first time the UCF Knights have made it past the first round in the NCAA Tournament. Either way, it’s history made.
"Duke is the No. 1 team, so for UCF to get to that kind of place, they worked really, really hard," said Earnest.
"I’m proud of our school. We did good," said UCF fan Jorge De Rapana.
There is still excitement on campus. It's a rather positive vibe and so many UCF fans are happy the Knights got this far.
In fact, several cheering Knights fans were on campus early Monday to welcome the players as they got off their buses.
Junior Parker Hay was one of the students waiting there to greet his team when players arrived back on campus. Hay said he's heartbroken for his Knights, but he's focusing on the history that was made.
"I've seen B.J. (Taylor) make that shot so many times this year. Sometimes they just don't go in," Hay said. "You can't dwell on it too much. They played a great game. I think they played better than most people expected them to play."
Hay said this year's team proved that UCF has what it takes to compete with other schools when it comes to athletics.
Coach Johnny Dawkins said he's proud of his team and is thankful for the support of fans.
"It's beautiful to get off the bus and see all the support," Dawkins said. "We have the best fans. Unbelievable students."
Regardless of how Sunday ended, Dawkins said his team's performance this season has been remarkable.
"I think the effort they gave us all season long was special. They came out, they believed we could have a terrific season and they accomplished that," Dawkins said.
Point guard B.J. Taylor said he and his teammates gave it their all.
"This isn't how we wanted it to end, but we still represented UCF well and represented Orlando the best we could," Taylor said.
He said it was tough to see the season end the way it did, but that the support of Knights fans has made it a bit easier on the team.
"To know that the student body and the community has your back like that -- it's times like these, it makes things feel a little better," Taylor said.
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