TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — As the Wildcats walked from their bus into the Arizona Stadium, it was the first time they have been in front of their fans in Tucson for the first time all season long.
"They made our days the past two weeks," said one fan while holding up a Wildcat T-shirt.
After spending three weeks in San Antonio in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats arrived in Tucson on Monday. Their first stop was to celebrate their run to the NCAA title game with their fans.
"We're proud of all our hard work, and then we're sad, and then we come to Tucson, and our hearts are full," said head coach Adia Barnes.
One of their fans is Mayor Regina Romero.
"What an amzing way to punctuate women's history month by making history for the University of Arizona," said Romero, an alumni of the University of Arizona.
"They have passion," Barnes told the crowd of her team. "They have grit. We were not the best team in the tournament. We were not the most talented, but we were the toughest."
"For Adia Barnes to make her first tournament run and start off 5-0, knocking off the likes of Texas A&M and UConn, and then playing to within one bucket of the national championship, you just have to pinch yourself," said Doug Tepper, a Wildcats fan. "It's hard to believe."
Star player Aari McDonald stayed afterwards to sign autographs.
"We're gonig to watch you in the WNBA," one fan said. McDonald has not officially declared for the WNBA draft, but she is expected to, soon.
And, during the celebration, there was a surprise announcement from senior captain Sam Thomas.
"I love you guys so much," Thomas told the fans. "This has been a great run with my teammates. And, I want to come back for one more year."
Thomas is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted due to COVID-19.
The Wildcats ended the celebration with their tradition of banging the drum, something they do after each win. The Wildcats banged the drum twenty one times. Barns did the last one.
"Thank you, Tucson," said Barnes. "We love you."