Fans turn out in droves to support Mesa women's basketball team
Taylor Wagner recalled one of his first encounters with a Colorado Mesa women’s basketball fan.
After one of the Mavericks’ first home games this season, a woman came up to the Mavericks’ first-year coach and whispered one word in his ear:
“She thought we were boring to watch,” Wagner said with a grin Monday afternoon during the Maverick Club luncheon. “We’ll try not to be boring tonight.”
Ma’am, how do you like ‘em now?
You have to remember way back to November to understand where this fan might have been coming from. The Mavericks were still adjusting to Wagner’s system, and the competition during the Thanksgiving Tip-off Classic was anything but top-drawer. Mesa throttled Hillsdale Baptist 87-24 the first game, then handled Mid-America Christian 88-64 the next night. I must admit, neither game was scintillating.
Fast forward to Monday night.
Not even sitting in the arena for two hours prior to tip-off, as a couple of hundred fans did, was boring. You could feel something special was about to happen.
Baseball players Colton Schoelkopf and Colton Little asked if they could set up lawn chairs on the baseline next to the bleachers where their teammates took position near the end of the CMU bench. They got the OK, and within minutes, they had another brilliant idea.
No, you cannot bring in a couch.
It was that kind of night.
One student moonwalked down the sideline when Jermaine Williams, CMU’s events manager and public address announcer, played some of his favorite Michael Jackson tunes. The first 100 students got free pizza. They painted their faces and their bare chests, waved signs and gave both teams the energy of a championship game.
Parents of players wore their daughters’ names on the backs of their shirts.
One adult in the front row was standing and frenetically waving a towel as the Mavericks edged in front in the final minutes. I was kicking myself for not downloading a decibel meter app before the game.
It made me think of former men’s coach Doug Schakel, who loved the support the Mavericks have always had, but always wished Grand Junction fans weren’t so polite.
He would have been proud of Monday night. It was anything but polite.
They screamed in support. They screamed at officials’ calls, none louder than when Kelsey Sigl was called for pushing through a screen with 3.9 seconds left, allowing Midwestern State to hit two free throws and pull within one point.
At times, you couldn’t hear the shot clock horn, which isn’t very loud to begin with, because of the din.
At the press table, we kept looking at one another and shaking our heads, unable to fathom the intensity of the game.
My penmanship has always been suspect, and in the final couple of minutes, I knew I couldn’t write fast enough to take notes that I’d be able to read later on. I grabbed my recorder and screamed into it, trying to describe what was happening. Besides, I didn’t want to miss anything by looking down at my notebook.
At the final horn, the students rushed the court as the rest of the 1,927 stood and cheered. I heard one fan behind me call out, “When does the bus leave?” when Williams invited fans to join the Mavericks in San Antonio for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
Students chanted “Kel-sey! Kel-sey! Kel-sey!” when Sigl was announced as the tournament’s outstanding player, with her senior co-captain, Katrina Selsor, also on the all-tourney team.
When the two raised the program’s first NCAA Division II regional championship trophy, the look of sheer joy on Katrina Selsor’s usually stoic face is an image I’ll long remember.
After the RMAC Shootout, Sharaya Selsor talked about how the Mavericks wanted to change the perception of women’s basketball in the Grand Valley. Katrina Selsor has talked about how this team wanted to make history and be the best women’s basketball team to wear the uniform.
They’ve done that and more.
They’ve made going to a women’s basketball game a can’t-miss event.
Boring? Not hardly.
“Small goals into big goals,” Sigl said of how this driven group of women stayed grounded through the record-setting season. “We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Several players hit their Twitter accounts Monday night, none more fitting than Sigl’s:
“WHAT UP SA!!!”