Tired Wildcats return home to appreciation fest - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Tired Wildcats return home to appreciation fest

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Many fans went from watching the game to lining up for tickets to Tuesday's celebration at Rupp Arena. Many fans went from watching the game to lining up for tickets to Tuesday's celebration at Rupp Arena.
Jon Hood Jon Hood
Coach John Calipari Coach John Calipari

LEXINGTON, KY (WAVE) - They fell just short of bringing a National Championship back to the Bluegrass, but after one of the most remarkable NCAA Tournament runs in University of Kentucky Basketball history, the Kentucky Wildcats returned home to thousands of cheering fans.

Many fans went from watching the game to lining up for tickets to Tuesday's celebration at Rupp Arena. They didn't care about missing sleep, they just wanted to show their appreciation for an unforgettable season. UK fan James Allen said of his team, "We did great and I know a lot of people counted us out, but we pulled through and I'm happy."

In a season that began with great expectations, suffered serious February frustrations and then moved into March with surprise after NCAA surprise, it ended six points shy of UK's 9th National Championship. The UConn Huskies won it all, but that didn't stop Big Blue Nation from showing up at the Lexington Airport and lining up around Rupp Arena to welcome the Cats home.

Allen said of waiting in line to get celebration tickets, "When I got here I was worried," he said of the long line. "It was all the way down and around the corner!"

UK grad Rachel Webb and her family drove up early from Shelbyville for front row seats. "We feel like this is a great time to make real memories for them," she said of her 5-year-old son, "this guy cried after we lost and dad said, you know what it's even more important in their loss is that we go and welcome them back."

They were just in time to see their courageous team of Cats step off the bus to cheers.

Fan and UK employee Barbara Royalty-Tatum said of the season, "All of the sudden, they rallied back and we are so proud of these freshman boys."

With the 2014 runner-up banner hanging from the rafters, the crowd was pumped to look back at the tourney battle after battle on the video board and say thank you for an unbelievable ride and for a little tweaking. The crowd listened to a locker room speech form Coach John Calipari to his team, "I'm watching you fight and scramble it makes it easy on me!" The crowd cheered.

Fifth year senior Jon Hood spoke to the fans for his teammates saying thanks for the unbelievable support, "I know Coach Cal says it a lot, but y'all are seriously crazy," he laughed.

Calipari said, "We started climbing a mountain this team together and we slipped a couple of times," he said. "We almost fell off a couple cliffs but you know, these guys just kept climbing, kept climbing and climbing."

Calipari told them, "This was an unbelievable journey that none of our staff or players will ever forget, we will never forget this journey." The coach thanked fans who believed in the team all season and inspired them. He also thanked those fans who didn't saying they really motivated the team.

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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