SAN JOSE -- Will Cherry saw his collegiate career end on a crushing note, in a 81-34 NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse at HP Pavilion.
Cherry, an Oakland native who helped lead McClymonds High to the state title in 2008, didn't play his best game Thursday. He scored only two points on 1 of 12 shooting and had no assists and five turnovers.
But that performance won't define his career.
"He's been our torch," Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said after the loss. "He sets the tone on both ends. What I thought he really brought that we lacked early on in my coaching career there is toughness. He brought a level of toughness that we hadn't had." Cherry's career with the Grizzlies certainly left a mark. Montana won 93 games during his four seasons and captured three Big Sky Conference titles to earn three trips to the NCAA tournament.
"Look what we've done," Tinkle said. "We've won a school record games in a four-year span. We've set league records. We've set school records, all in his time."
Cherry departs Montana as the school's all-time leader in steals. He's fourth all-time in assists and seventh in scoring. He was a two-time Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, including this season, and also a first-team all-conference pick.
"He'll leave his marks on our program for a long time to come and hopefully our guys that are returning will learn from his leadership and carry it forward," Tinkle said.
Cherry didn't like the way
"It's definitely been a great career," Cherry said. "I don't know how many people from a mid-major conference can they say they've been here and wore that (NCAA) patch three different times. So I'm definitely grateful for my experience here at the University of Montana."
He also leaves the school hopeful it can reach greater heights than simply making it to the Big Dance, even if he's not there to experience it.
"We always can win our conference but winning an NCAA tournament game is a whole different ballgame," Cherry said. "It's something we need to be able to do. Hopefully they do it when I leave. We can't just be satisfied with getting here."
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