Led by Donte DiVincenzo (third from right), Villanova defeats Michigan in the NCAA Championship game at the Alamodome. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Donte DiVincenzo. Remember the name. He came off the bench and stepped into Villanova University lore with a game for the ages.

He destroyed the University of Michigan’s title hopes in Monday night’s NCAA championship basketball game with 3-pointers and slashing drives to the basket, with off-balance jumpers and assists, with a dunk and a monstrous block of Wolverines guard Charles Matthews at the rim.

A 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Wilmington, Delaware, DiVincenzo drained the madness from March and lit a fuse in April. With each bucket and drive in the second half, with each pulsating play, he pushed Villanova farther ahead and all the way to the Wildcats’ second championship in three seasons.

With a little more than four minutes left in Villanova’s 79-62 victory, DiVincenzo brought the ball up the court and the Alamodome crowd to its feet, thundering its approval. He whipped a pass to Mikal Bridges in the corner. Bridges lofted a perfect arc. Swish. The Alamodome erupted and DiVincenzo turned, clenched his fist, and allowed himself to celebrate.

Michigan had no answer for DiVincenzo, who scored a career-high 31 points, the most ever by a non-starter in a national championship game. The Wolverines led early,

14-8, until Villanova Coach Jay Wright sent DiVincenzo into the game. In less than seven minutes, he fired the Wildcats into the lead with three 3-pointers and another basket.

“Honestly, when I got into the game, all I was trying to do was play hard,” said DiVincenzo, who grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists. “I just wanted to help my team offensively.”

Villanova celebrates their second championship in three years.
Villanova celebrates their second championship in three years. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As DiVincenzo warmed up, Michigan forward Moritz “Moe” Wagner cooled off. Wagner looked unstoppable in the opening minutes – only to finish with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Two years ago in Houston, the Wildcats needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Kris Jenkins to defeat North Carolina for the national championship. They needed no heroics Monday night.

“I really can’t wrap my mind around it,” Wright said in the jubilant, confetti-filled aftermath. “I never dreamt of this. I thought we played our best game in the championship game.”

San Antonio also had something to celebrate Monday. The city threw a Final Four Fiesta to remember. The March Madness Music Festival drew capacity crowds of 25,000 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Thousands more attended the Fan Fest, Reese’s All-Star game, and the Final Four Dribble. Then there were the hotels, restaurants, and bars, overrun with more than 90,000 out-of-town visitors.

One reward: the local economy received a boost that, according to one study, will exceed $180 million.

A second reward: priceless exposure for the city and its tourism industry. An international television audience saw about 45 seconds of cutaways and commercials of the River Walk and Alamodome before the game’s tipoff. In 2014, a 30-second spot in the NCAA championship game cost $1.5 million. TBS would not disclose ad rates for this year’s game, but this much is certain: The city could not afford the cost.

On Monday night, TBS aired valuable minutes of video postcards of local landmarks – the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas – to millions of viewers (22.9 million in the U.S. during the 2017 championship game, millions more in 176 countries). In 2014, that would have cost the city at least $6 million and probably a lot more this year. What will Visit San Antonio, formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau, spend in 2018 to attract leisure travelers to San Antonio? Approximately $4 million.

“Our city showed the teamwork and friendly spirit for which we’ve become known,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “The best Final Four experience in tournament history – for locals and visitors – was in our backyard this year.”

With nearly 400 law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics in place, the Final Four extravaganza went off virtually glitch-free. The San Antonio Police Department reported no arrests at the games and no major incidents at the ancillary events. Fire Chief Charles Hood reported no fires or medical emergencies.

From the fourth floor of the Alamodome, Police Chief William McManus supervised officers from his command post. McManus had a special interest in the game. He played football at Villanova from 1969-73. He predicted victory. The Wildcats delivered, and the chief cheered – quietly behind the scenes – while Villanova players leaped on the floor.

In the center of the celebration stood DiVincenzo, drenched with sweat and emotion and a smile that stretched from San Antonio to Villanova. On the game’s biggest stage, he delivered his greatest performance, a performance no one will soon forget.

Villanova celebrates their second championship in three years.
Villanova players celebrate their second championship in three years. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
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Ken Rodriguez

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native and award-winning journalist.