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No. 11 Loyola beats Kansas State

ATLANTA  — Sister Jean and the Loyola Ramblers are headed to the Final Four.

This improbable NCAA Tournament just took its craziest turn yet.

Ben Richardson scored 23 points and 11th-seeded Loyola romped to a 78-62 victory over Kansas State on Saturday night, capping off a remarkable run through the bracket-busting South Regional.

“Are you kidding me! Are you kidding me!” coach Porter Moser screamed over and over again in front of the scarf-clad faithful who made the trip south from Chicago.

Nope, this is real.

The Ramblers (32-5) matched the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four, joining LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011). Those other three all lost in the national semifinals.

Don’t bet against Loyola, which emerged from a regional that produced a staggering array of upsets. The South became the first regional in the tournament history to have the top four seeds — including overall No. 1 Virginia — knocked out on the opening weekend.

In the end, it was the Ramblers cutting down the nets.

After three close calls, this one was downright easy.

“We believed that we could do something like this — do something really special— because we knew we had such good chemistry and we’ve got such a good group,” Richardson said. “Everyone would say we were crazy. If we said this was going to happen, people would call us crazy, but you’ve just got to believe.”

Loyola continued to be inspired by its 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who led a prayer in the locker room before the game, then was pushed onto the court in her wheelchair to join the celebration when it was done.

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