It was the final game of the season. Their last chance to get that elusive conference victory, their first since January 28th, 2009 when the Rams defeated St. Bonaventure by seven on the road. Since that game Fordham has won just eight contests in total, all in the non conference season.
Today, they were determined to change that.
Rose Hill Gym was rocking from the opening tip. The Rams came out storming on Senior day and took a quick 8-2 lead on the back of two three-pointers from five-year senior Brenton Butler, who was playing in his final game as a Ram. He finished with 29 points to lead his team.
UMass briefly had the lead at 11-10, but that was the only time they had control the entire game. Fordham went up 32-22 with 2:28 left in the half, and the Minutemen came back to cut it to two, before a Jacob Green dunk sent the Rams into halftime with a four point edge.
Fordham has had the problem all season where they have been able to play for one half, whether it is the first or the second, but cannot play the other. They have just been unable to put together a solid 40-minute game.
Today, that was not a problem. The extended the lead to 13 in the second half, but couldn't totally take UMass out of the game thanks to 30 points from Anthony Gurley. The lead hovered around 10 until the final minute when the Minutemen tried to live up to their name and put together a furious rally in the final 60 seconds. They would cut the lead down to three as the Rams had a lot of trouble inbounding the ball.
However, in an almost perfect ending Brenton Butler hit two free-throws with 20 seconds remaining to give them a five-point edge.
As the final seconds ticket off the clock the fans stood up and gave a standing ovation while the players ran to the student section and started hugging and thanking all the supporters.
For players like Brenton Butler and Jacob Green, who will now graduate, this is the end of the line.
However, this game was just the beginning. It was a sign of the future and what is possible for this program, which has been irrelevant for several years. With new head coach Tom Pecora, who helped the Rams pick up a solid win against St. John's earlier this year, things seem possible.
The Rams are young and boy are they hungry to be good. In a conference like the A-10 with teams such as Xavier and Temple, it can be daunting, however, someday, hopefully soon, Rose Hill might be rocking as well.