Holy Basketball! Catholics Meet Baptists in Sweet 16

Baptist Baylor takes on Saint Mary's

By Lori Preuitt
|  Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010  |  Updated 1:50 PM PDT
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - MARCH 21: Lance Hurdle #1 of the Miami Hurricanes goes up for a shot against Todd Golden #24 and Omar Samhan #50 of the Saint Mary's Gaels during the first round of the South Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Alltel Arena on March 21, 2008 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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A holy war of sorts is shaping up in the NCAA tournament and it involves the Bay Area's own Cinderella team.

The Catholic Saint Mary's Gaels will take on the Baptist Baylor Bears this Friday in Houston.

Who doesn't pray when it comes down to big moments in sports?

Team leader Omar Samhan says he knows a lot of people are praying for him. "We got everybody praying, so hopefully our prayers will be bigger than theirs," he said.

While St. Mary's will be doing the sign of the cross, Baylor will be getting down on their knees. 

When you take God out has a factor in the game, Baylor still has the home town advantage.  The site of the South region in Houston is just 200 miles away from campus.  You can add a zero to that number to get to Moraga.

Along with prayers, the loss of the home team advantage was on the minds of the St. Mary's players as they left campus for their chartered flight to Texas Wednesday morning.

"Seems like we keep having these road games. I mean we're supposed to have these neutral sites but its not," Samhan said.

Somebody is on St. Mary's side. The have had two upsets so far and will need to continue that run to stay in the Madness of March basketball.

St. Mary's won its first NCAA tournament game in more than 50  years last Thursday when the team defeated the University of Richmond.

The  No. 10 seeded Gaels followed that up with an upset win over Villanova  University, a No. 2 seed, last Saturday.
     
The wins, the college's first postseason victories since 1959,  have caused an outpouring of enthusiasm both on campus and around the Bay Area.

"This is a territory we haven't been in for quite a long time," Saint Mary's spokesman  Mike McAlpin told Bay City News.

The game against Baylor is scheduled to tip off around 4:27 p.m.  Friday.

The school is hosting a viewing party at AT&T Park.  Doors open at 3:45 p.m.

Go Gaels!

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