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Jeff Eisenberg

Video: Sweet 16-bound Saint Mary's gets rock star treatment

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Take a look at the hero's welcome Saint Mary's received upon returning to Moraga after their second-round victory over Villanova, and tell me you're not pulling for the underdog Gaels against Baylor on Friday.

About 700 screaming fans and a police escort greeted the Saint Mary's team bus when it got back to campus.

"It's unreal," senior Omar Samhan told reporters earlier this week. "There's such a sense of community. The community feels like they're in the Sweet Sixteen. It's such a bond we have with such a small town, you know people come up to me in the streets and say, 'Do it for us!' It's just crazy."

The San Francisco area traditionally has been a much better pro sports market than a college one, but East Bay residents have gotten behind the Gaels the past week or two. Fans are snapping pictures of Saint Mary's players when they spot them dining near campus. Sweet 16 T-shirts are flying off the shelves at campus merchandise stands. O-Zone bumper stickers in honor of Samhan are popping up on cars throughout Moraga and its neighboring towns.

"I got the chance to talk to a guy at the grocery store and he said he just lost his job," Samhan said. "He said, 'Hey man, I've been down the last few weeks and this weekend really cheered me up. I feel like a new man again. Thank you so much!' You don't realize how much this means to the community."

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