Pride, passion on display for playoffs

The Montgomery High School cheering section celebrates. (Kent Porter/PD)

By KERRY BENEFIELD

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

 

Everybody knows it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors, but Montgomery High School senior Jay Fenton thumbed his Viking horns at superstition and waved his tattered “Make it rain” umbrella with gusto inside Montgomery’s gym Wednesday night.

The supposed bad juju didn’t seem to affect the top-seeded Vikes any — they romped over visiting Northgate High of Walnut Creek, 65-49.

Fenton waved his umbrella every time a

Viking hit a 3-point shot. He was a little busy Wednesday.

“I go to every game,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. My friends are on the team so I like to support them.”

The fan fervor that brought heat to the Santa Rosa gym, despite the cold drizzle outside, was also lighting up campuses across Sonoma County as four teams made runs deep into postseason basketball.

Of the Montgomery, Analy and Casa Grande boys and Santa Rosa High girls team, only the Vikings pulled off a win Wednesday night, but coaches and school officials said the school pride leading up to the showdowns on the hardwood was palpable.

“I know that it’s been the buzz,” said Casa Grande basketball coach James Forni. “Every person I see when I walk by them, it’s ‘Hey, good luck coach!’­”

Montgomery senior Amy Mitchell grew up watching Vikings teams dominate in the playoffs when she was a kid. She was a “Little Viking” tasked with mopping sweat from the gym floor between plays.

But Wednesday, she was front and center in the standing-room-only student section cheering on the contemporary Vikes.

“There’s nothing better to do than come out and watch my friends that I grew up playing with do really well,” she said.

Santa Rosa High’s girls team made a historic run into the NCS tournament — no Panther girls squad had reached the semifinals before. Those results sparked a surge in Panther pride that is already well known, said Principal Brad Coscarelli.

“We already have amazing school spirit, this just brings it to another level,” he said.

Analy High athletic director Joe Ellwood said student reaction to the Tigers’ postseason run has been low key, but that he was still fielding calls all week about driving down to Wednesday night’s contest in El Cerrito.

Vikings fans didn’t have as far to go.

On Montgomery’s home court, fans in “The Red Sea” stood all game long as the favored Vikings struggled to pull away from the Broncos from Walnut Creek.

At one point when the contest was still close, an adult Northgate fan was ejected from the gym after he offered some pointed, profanity-laden critiques of the officiating team, according to Montgomery athletic director Dean Haskins.

Vikings center Ben Freeland, who had 19 points in the victory, applauded Montgomery fans’ passion.

“The atmosphere is great in here,” he said. “We like the rowdiness.”

Fenton said students are urged by school administrators to keep their chants clean.

“It’s frowned upon to razz the other team,” he said.

But some Vikings couldn’t help themselves as the margin of victory began to grow well into the fourth quarter.

Chants of “Start! The! Bus!” with rattling keys was followed by “This is! Our house!” and the unmistakable chorus of “Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye!”

 

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com