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Friar heart, soul, and basketball: A Pep Band perspective

​By Nick Tavares ’16 

During this year’s exciting basketball season, the Providence College Friars’ men’s basketball team and fans donned T-shirts sporting a new motto: Heart and Soul.

As the drummer in the Providence College Pep Band, dubbed the “rockin’ heart of Providence College Friars’ basketball and hockey,” I quickly learned what “heart and soul” truly means.

A big win in the BIG EAST

One of the most exciting parts of being in the Pep Band is going to the BIG EAST Tournament in New York City. On Thursday, March 13, we walked with our instruments into Madison Square Garden, wearing our grey-and-black rugby shirts, for PC’s first game. We entered the Garden confident in our team, and we left celebrating a 79-74 victory over St. John’s University.

On Friday, we explored the Big Apple during the day, and at night, we once again journeyed into the Garden, excited by the Friars’ first semifinal game since 1997.

Finally, after a win over Seton Hall, we made one last exciting trek with our instruments to the Garden on Saturday, walking with cheers from PC fans and chants of “Let’s go, Friars!” all the way there.

We love to perform at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., for Friar home games. We watch and play from our usual position at the corner of the court, opposite the student section and cheerleaders, and we do our best to rock the roof off the “Dunk”. We were still struck with wonder, however, at the Garden’s size, its countless seats, and its immense ceiling.

Before the final game, I walked around the Garden with a few friends, and we looked at a timeline that circled the venue. It displayed historic acts and rock bands that had played there in the past. With that in mind, we took our place at the corner of the court and played in front of a sold-out crowd. With nothing but the court in front of me and the finest band in the BIG EAST behind me, my seat at my drum set was the best in the house.

As the championship game tipped off against favored Creighton, we were ready to shout and play as loud as we could. We noticed very quickly that the team was ready to play its heart out, too. We chanted and cheered on every possession as the Friars led the game, and our hearts soared at the prospect of a championship win.

In the final moments of the game, when the disbelieving fans realized the Friars were about to win the BIG EAST Championship, their first since 1994, Madison Square Garden burst. I jumped, cheered, and hugged my friends, and every fellow band member did the same. Every PC fan at the Garden felt the adrenaline and pure joy that were second only to the excitement of Coach Cooley and his players. The team had won, Coach Cooley had won, and we had won.

On Sunday, the Pep Band and cheerleaders rode home in a bus covered with PC Friars decals. Every so often, a car would pass us, beeping its horn and hands waving out its windows. That, though quieter than the previous night’s game, was something special. This game awoke a community and filled it with excitement.

We returned from our trip and played at the NCAA Selection Show Sunday Party, where we discovered, with the team, that we would all fly to San Antonio, Texas, to play the University of North Carolina in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

When the Saints go marching in San Antonio

No one in the band could believe this opportunity and how lucky we were to have this experience, but sure enough we flew on a chartered flight to San Antonio with the cheerleaders, the team, Coach Cooley, alumni, and Father Shanley.

Upon landing, I expected to exit the plane into the airport, but as we turned out the door, we were all met with cameramen, photographers, and a staircase down to the tarmac that you would expect the president to descend. We felt like rock stars.

We absorbed everything possible about San Antonio. We explored the city and visited the Alamo, Market Square, and the popular, beautiful San Antonio River Walk. We went to the AT&T Center and watched the Friars practice the day before their game. Our excitement and anticipation rose quickly.

The day of the big game finally arrived. We played outside our hotel at a pre-game reception for alumni and friends of PC. We then lined the hotel’s sidewalk and played our interpretation of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the team’s walk-out song, as our beloved Friars marched onto the bus.

And they did not stop marching there. At the AT&T Center, the team continued to show command on the court. We fought hard, entering half-time down by three. In the second half, we continued fighting and marching, and the AT&T Center was full of madness as the Friars eventually took the lead. The band, the cheerleaders, and a huge section of dedicated fans all roared as the game reached its final minutes.

At the game’s most crucial moment, a Pep Band member began a chant that caught on quickly, one that struck me as the most inspirational thing we could possibly give the team. We started chanting, “Heart and Soul, Heart and Soul!” As Coach Cooley had said at the previous day’s practice, “it sounded like the Dunk” in the AT&T Center.

At that moment, we felt the heart and soul those T-shirts proclaimed. We were part of it. Faith in our team, faith in ourselves, family — everything that Coach Cooley stresses and everything our school stands for — all constitute PC’s “Heart and Soul,” and I had never felt that heart and soul more than then.

Though the game ended in a loss, every Friar in the AT&T Center left knowing they had given their all, whether they were coaching, playing, performing, or cheering. We all left knowing that we had played a game to be proud of and had finished a season worth celebrating.

Although the basketball season is over, an exciting season of PC athletics continues. The Pep Band, once again, is fortunate enough to travel now with the hockey team and support Coach Leaman and the Friars as they compete in the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament. At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 28, the Friars will take on Quinnipiac University at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.

Go Friars!

Nick Tavares ’16 is an English major and Friar fanatic from Seekonk, Mass. See a video of him playing at Madison Square Garden on Instagram