It was the Cinderella story that captured the imagination of a nation.
But the final word has been written on Geordie star Tosan Evbuomwan’s fairytale run to the Sweet Sixteen of US college basketball’s premier competition.
A global audience of millions tuned in to discover if ultimate underdog Princeton could add another huge scalp to their impressive collection.
But after dumping out both Arizona and Missouri, sixth-ranked Creighton proved a challenge too far for the only double-digit seed left in this year’s March Madness.
The Blue Jays closed out a comfortable 86-75 win to advance to the Elite Eight but Eagles Academy graduate Evbuomwan signed off on a stellar college career in typically impressive style.
The former Royal Grammar School pupil did everything in his power to take the Tigers even deeper into the post-season with 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
In the end it wasn’t to be for a player who hit the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic on the back of his ‘cool’ accent and killer plays.
But one-time Sport Newcastle Rising Star Evbuomwan’s future looks bright as the academically gifted hooper plans the next step on a remarkable journey.
“Tosan is a very unique player,’’ said Princeton play-caller Mitch Henderson. “I call him a brilliant, blinding light from heaven in our program. It’s exquisite watching him play.’’
Newcastle fans would love to welcome back one of their own to the Vertu Motors Arena one day.
Evbuomwan prepared for brilliant back-to-back junior and senior seasons with the Tigers by going head-to-head with current Eagles favourite Justin Gordon during daily practice on Tyneside two years ago.
And those hours spent honing his craft in his native North East against seasoned pros laid the foundation for successive Ivy League MVP honours and a coveted place on college basketball’s biggest stage.
But the Eagles faithful may have to wait some time to see one of 2023’s hottest properties back where he belongs with NBA scouts, G-League bosses and top European clubs lining up to take a fresh look at the former Newcastle United junior.
“We’re so proud of Tosan and everything he’s gone on to achieve with Princeton during his college career,” said Newcastle owner and MD Paul Blake.
“He’ll always be welcomed back here with open arms and we’re hoping to see him here soon.
“But from a career perspective, Tosan has the world at his feet — on and off the court.
“I can’t wait to see where he goes next.”
That Evbuomwan was even in a position to challenge the Blue Jays was incredible enough given it was 56 years since Princeton had advanced so far in the NCAA tournament.
But in towering Creighton centre Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Tigers’ talisman met his match.
The Blue Jays big man scored 22 points on 9-from-12 shooting and often proved to be an immovable defensive pillar in the paint.
Creighton led 47-43 at the half but Princeton were slow to get going after the break and the favourites established a 16-point lead with 12 minutes on the clock.
Evbuomwan and co. doubled down on defence to limit the damage and stay in contention but too many big shots failed to drop down the stretch.
And the highlight heroes of March Madness 2023 exited the KFC Yum! Stadium in Kentucky with their heads held high and a history-making run under their belts.