Duquesne basketball makes the most of Snowmaggedon experience


One day, Nick Foschia will run to show his children the images from this bonkers weekend that was. Assuming, of course, he can ever feel his feet again.

“It’s something you can talk about years down the line,” said Foschia, a senior forward on the Duquesne men’s basketball team and the Dukes’ resident free spirit. “I think it’s a great experience.”

And not one anybody’s eager to repeat anytime soon. First, the good news: After a snowstorm trapped the Dukes — and their team bus — on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 23 hours, the team arrived on campus safely at 11 p.m. eastern time Saturday.

The less-than-good bit: A trek west from George Mason’s Fairfax, Va., campus back to Pittsburgh that normally takes four-and-a-half hours lasted more than 30.

The intentions were sound: Fearing the oncoming blizzard, the Dukes had their weekend contest at Mason moved up to early Friday afternoon. While Duquesne topped the Patriots, 86-75, they still couldn’t beat Mother Nature.

‘We knew there was a storm coming and as soon as the game was over we were all trying to hurry and get out of that area,” Micah Mason said.

The Dukes’ charter departed EagleBank Arena at 4:30 p.m. Roughly 80 miles from the Steel City, between Somerset and Bedford, Pa., they stopped. Then the white stuff started to form in piles, slowing traffic to a halt.

“We’re like, ‘Oh, it’s probably just an accident,’” recalled Foschia, a walk-on from Northfield Center, Ohio. “‘We’ll get going (eventually).’”

They didn’t.

At first, the Dukes laughed it off. Occupational hazard. The amenities weren’t ideal, but it could’ve been a heck of a lot worse: Every row of seats had its own power outlet so electronic equipment could remain charged, restroom facilities were on hand, and officials were told the bus had only used up a quarter of its gas tank by late Friday.

Plus, on a “fun” scale from 1 to 10, the Dukes — whose Bench Mob routines have become an Atlantic 10 staple — roll at about a 13-and-a-half, especially when left to amuse themselves:

“The casting votes of who gets to get off the bus and who had to push the bus had to be the best part,” Foschia said.

And this is coming from a guy who lost. Twice.

“So we all had to push the bus a little bit about midnight,” Foschia said.

Did it move?

“No it did not,” he laughed.

Undeterred, the forward decided it might be a hoot to lie down in the middle of a quiet highway:

“There was about a foot of snow, so I thought, ‘Why not?’” Foschia said. “Somebody took a picture of it and it blew up on social media.”

They made new friends, too:

But as Friday gave way to Saturday, the bus idling in the dark, the gravity of the situation crept in.

“Probably 2, 3 a.m., it’s pitch black, we’re really just kind of looking out at the highway,” Nick said. “And we’re like, ‘We’re going to be stuck here for at least another 12 hours.’”

Sleep fell over them, gradually; Foschia figured a short nap would be interrupted by an early Saturday morning arrival. Nope.

“About 9 a.m., we woke up,” he said. “We hadn’t moved.”

Although they hadn’t lost their sense of humor:

As the storm moved on at midday, coach Jim Ferry gave the green light for players to walk around outside a bit. Food and water supplies were starting to fade, so staffers were shuttled by emergency crews to the nearest town in the afternoon for a badly-needed grub run. Chicken and chips never went down so well.

“That was a big morale-booster,” Foschia said. “Everyone was lethargic and tired. Once the food came, everyone had a little pep in their steps.”

The universal hallelujahs finally came at roughly 7:30 eastern Saturday night, when the bus got word it could start moving again. Players grabbed makeshift shovels — pizza boxes and garbage cans, mostly — and headed toward the wheels.

“As soon as we heard the bus had a chance to move, Coach said, ‘All right, guys, everybody push.’ We didn’t want to miss an opportunity to leave. We all gave three or four solid pushes before it got rolling.”

 Mason scored 23 points and Derrick Colter 19 at George Mason, but the Dukes had no doubts as to who the weekend’s real MVP was:

“Once I get back to my room and back in my bed,” Foschia said, “that’s when I’ll be able to smile about this.”

“It was about 11 o’clock when we arrived on campus,” Mason added. “My first thought was to get a shower and hop into my own bed.”

Snowmageddon 2016? It’s a long story, kids. But a happy ending.

Freelance writer Tom Layberger contributed to this article.
Above: Players got out and helped push their snowbound bus. (Courtesy Duquesne Athletics)