Stranded on the highway for more than a day, the Niagara women’s basketball team is finally making its journey home.
The team was stuck on its bus for nearly 30 hours because of a huge storm that dumped 4 feet of snow around Buffalo and was blamed for at least six deaths.
Niagara was coming back late Monday night from a loss at Pittsburgh when the squad was marooned on the New York State Thruway. Early on Wednesday morning, players at last tweeted photos of a plow starting to clear the road.
A few hours later, state troopers picked them up and brought them to a nearby police station where another bus was waiting to take them back to campus, Niagara guard Tiffany Corselli said.
“It started to get bad fast at about 2 a.m. (Tuesday morning) and we came to a dead stop and haven’t moved since,” Niagara coach Kendra Faustin told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday night. “It was a rough weekend for us on the court and it just won’t end.”
The coach, who took over at Niagara in 2007, said everyone was OK and the team was in good spirits. Players had been running low on food, but local officials dropped off snacks and drinks. There were 25 players and coaches aboard the bus as well as Faustin’s 1-year-old son.
“We have snacks, some granola bars and pretzels,” Faustin said. “We found six bottles of water and have been rationing it. We thought we’d be here for a couple hours and a couple of hours turned into 12 hours. It’s now 24 hours.”
Before the supplies arrived, the team actually turned some of the snow into water. Faustin described snow drifts higher than 6 feet that covered cars. Other motorists came aboard the bus seeking shelter and bonded with the team.
In a region accustomed to highway-choking snowstorms, this one has been called one of the worst in memory. Snow blown by strong winds forced the closing of a 132-mile stretch of the Thruway, the main highway that runs across New York State.
“You couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us, but it’s starting to get better,” Faustin said. “You can see some lights in the distance of some houses off the side of the road.”
Players used social media to inform others of their plight, posting selfies from the bus.
“This whole Twitter and media thing has kept their spirits high,” Faustin said. “It’s something fun for them to do.”
Players also watched movies and caught the Duke-Michigan State men’s basketball game on television Tuesday night.
“They really have been great. There’s been no complaining at all. They’ve been joking around: I want a steak, I want a soft taco, a Slurpee,” she said. “There’s definitely nothing in the coaching handbook to prepare you for this. I’m sure when it’s all done we’ll look back at it and remember how great a bonding experience it was. For now, I think everyone just wants to get home and sleep in their own beds.”
Niagara wasn’t the only team affected by the storm. Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta was snowed in and unable to leave his home. Sabres assistant general manager Mark Jakubowski and head athletic trainer Tim Macre were also snowed in and unable to attend Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
The storm also forced the postponement of the Canisius College women’s basketball home game against Binghamton on Wednesday night.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg