It’s the second half -- the clock’s running down, and fans are on the edge of their seats as freshman guard Aaron Estrada steps back and Hail Marys a game-winning jumper with 0.9 seconds left.
But what could have been a championship run ended in a flash.
It’s been over a month since the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championship short, leaving the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team wondering what could have been.
“We would have most definitely won the entire thing,” Estrada told The Pauw Wow.
After four consecutive years, Saint Peter’s (No. 2) did what many other teams couldn’t since 2016 -- knockout defending champions, Iona College (No. 7) from a semi-final spot in the tournament.
It was definitely a team effort that led to the quarterfinal victory. Estrada contributed to the 22-18 lead by scoring seven of the nine points, ending the first half. But the tables turned in the second half and the Peacocks were short 42-50.
Soon enough, the team posed a 9-0 comeback run for the 51-50 lead.
With one minute on the clock, Defensive Player of the Year, KC Ndefo, brought the game to a 54-54 tie with two free throws. Thanks to a pass from freshman guard Matthew Lee and a behind-the-back move on Iona guard Ben Perez, Estrada secured the 56-54 win.
MAAC Rookie of the Year, Estrada -- who recently committed to playing for the University of Oregon next year -- helped Saint Peter’s by snagging a team-best eight times as the top freshman in the conference. He was the only freshman this year to earn a spot on the All-MAAC Third Team and the 2019-20 MAAC All-Rookie Team.
“For our seniors, it’s definitely devastating for their season to come to an end this way,” said Estrada. “But I feel as though at least they went out with a win and I’m proud to say I played hard for them.”
Senior guard Quinn Taylor’s collegiate career didn’t end the way he expected, but he said he’s happy with how his team stepped up when they were seen as the underdogs.
Taylor was the one to set the tone, knocking down a three-ball from downtown for the early lead in the quarterfinal matchup. The 6’5” guard finished the night with a team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
“I’m a bit upset. I know we had much more basketball to be played,” Taylor said. “But I’m happy how successful we were, how hard my teammates worked and to prove all who doubted us wrong.”
Taylor joined the squad during the 2016-17 season, hailing from Tascosa High School in Texas; he was 6’4”. It didn’t take long for him to find his place as he won Saint Peter’s Sophomore Male Student-Athlete of The Year.
Since then, he’s been instrumental for the Peacocks, appearing in every contest and starting in a majority of them. He’s charted in the top-three for SPU in scoring and rebounding in both his junior and senior year.
And though his journey for SPU has come to an end, he said he hopes he’s encouraged his teammates to “work hard on-and-off the court,” always giving your all because you never know what can happen.
“I for-sure knew we would’ve won the tournament!” Taylor said. “… We were playing so well with so much momentum.”