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Quinn enjoyed St. Thomas More's NCAA shining moments

Jere Quinn was cruising down a scenic road in Florida on a perfect 83 degree Monday afternoon.

The St. Thomas More basketball coach's mind, however, was over a thousand miles away in San Antonio.

Quinn made his vacation plans long before knowing that Villanova, which features former St. Thomas More players Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman, would help lead the Wildcats to a 79-62 victory over Michigan in the NCAA championship game from the Alamodome.

"I made this vacation with my wife back in February," Quinn said. "I said, 'If Villanova gets to this Final Four, honey, I am not going to be happy.' Trust me, I looked into flights to San Antonio. It's cheaper to rent a Sea-Doo and just ride it there."

Quinn actually is off the charts on the Happy Meter.

Happy that he's spending vacation time with his wife, Judy, in a warm climate and thrilled that March Madness has been one long shining moment for his prep school basketball program.

Not only did Paschall and Spellman represent St. Thomas More, but several other former players competed in the NCAA tournament on the Division I, Division II and Division III levels, and another was on the coaching staff of Penn State, which won the NIT title last week.

More on the others later.

The spotlight sharpened its focus on Paschall and Spellman during Villanova's tournament run.

"This has really been interesting because they've both had such a pivotal role in their success," Quinn said. "They both have done things that the team needs when the team needs it."

Take Villanova's 95-79 rout of Kansas in the national semifinal on Saturday.

Paschall, a 6-foot-9 redshirt junior forward, finished with a team-high 24 points to go with three rebounds and three assists. He also went 10 for 11 from the field, including 4 for 5 from 3-point range.

A 6-9 redshirt freshman, Spellman contributed 15 points, a team-best 13 rebounds and three blocks.

They combined for 14 points and 19 rebounds in Monday night's title game.

"It's been fun," Quinn said. "This has been great. We've been texting and talking with the kids. They're so elated and their families are so happy. It's just so good to see how they've matured as athletes and certainly as people, because they've handled themselves with such humility."

"At the press conference the other day, they were wonderful."

It's not surprising to Quinn that Paschall and Spellman, who graduated from St. Thomas More in 2014 and 2016, respectively, have made such a major impact this season in their starting roles.

While at St. Thomas More, both players received the New England prep player of the award and helped their teams reach the national prep school final.

And then they both benefited from sitting out a year at Villanova — Paschall as a transfer from Fordham and Spellman as an academic redshirt.

"Sitting out for a year really gave them the opportunity to grow up as students, as athletes, and as people and then transform their body, which is what they've done," Quinn said. "They were sneaky athletic. They both always could shoot the ball and they both liked to play. They both were as happy with making a pass or a good defensive play as making a shot. They're both very quiet and polite kids and both very intelligent.

"So it's certainly not unexpected. But, at the same time, it's wonderful to see it happen. Some people waste their potential and these two have taken advantage of their potential and they made the most of it."

This is the second time that two ex-STM players reached the Final Four in the same season with the Wildcats. Dwayne Anderson and Antonio Pena were members of the 2009 Villanova team that lost to North Carolina in the national semifinals. Ed Cota went to three Final Fours with North Carolina but never won a title.

From a St. Thomas More basketball program perspective, it will be hard to top this season. Besides the Villanova duo's accomplishments, several other ex-Chancellors have danced in March.

Here's an impressive rundown:

• Sophomore starting forward Arkel Lamar had in 12 points and 10 rebounds in University of Maryland Baltimore County's historic upset of top-seeded Virginia. Lamar played two seasons for St. Thomas More.

• Julian Batts, a sophomore point guard, had 13 points and eight rebounds for LIU Brooklyn in an NCAA first round loss to Radford.

• Sophomore E.J. Crawford made his first NCAA tournament appearance for Iona in a loss to Duke.

• Dwayne Anderson is an assistant coach at Penn State, which won the NIT.

• Junior D'Vonne Trumbo and freshman Hashem Abbas helped Bridgeport go 25-6 overall and advance to the NCAA Division II East Regional quarterfinals.

Also, junior C.J. Asuncion-Byrd played a role in Le Moyne College reaching the Div. II quarterfinals and winning a program-best 27 games.

• Sophomore Trey Witter was a reserve for Division III Springfield, which lost in the national semifinals.

Quinn takes great pride in all his former players' accomplishments.

Monday night, he watched the national championship game in Florida.

No big party.

Just a beaming Quinn soaking it all in.

"I'll really kind of watch it by myself instead of being there," Quinn said. "And I've been to a bunch of those. Sometimes it's just easier to sit and watch it. Honestly, when they're introducing them, it will be just like, 'aw shucks.'

"I think I'd enjoy being there."

g.keefe@theday.com

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