Student Section Contributes to Blues Basketball Success

Emily Solomon, Sports Editor

The men’s basketball team finished the 2018-19 season with a 26-1 record, with the only loss coming from a three point double overtime game at Pomona Pitzer. Fortunately for the Blues, the NCAA granted the squad a chance to avenge their sole season loss on Saturday, March 2 as Pitzer joined the Blues in Sherwood Center.

Both teams were playing their hearts out in the win-or-go-home matchup, and the student section could feel the intensity radiating into the stands. A feeling of sadness, disguised by chants and screams, took over George Ball Court as the Blues celebrated their win. Not sadness for Pitzer’s season-ending game, but rather sadness that this would be the last night of the legendary student section.

“As ‘superfans,’ we go to basketball games because we appreciate good basketball,” shared superfan Peter Stephens. “But also, we go because having an arena full of people who don’t chant is really weird. Having a group of people yelling practically whatever we want at the top of our lungs with little to no consequences won’t last forever, so we might as well get it out of our system while we can.”

While the student section dominates one half of the gym, the opposite side of the bleachers brings a whole new kind of energy. Parents, families, Whitman staff, faculty and other members of the Walla Walla community sit across from the rowdy student section and get the best view of Whitties supporting their fellow Blues on the court.

Illustration by Elena Kaminskaia

“I think the students are vital to the energy in the gym during basketball. Their success is important to the college. It shows that we are not just a little college in a little PNW town, but instead, we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Whitman staff member Robert Randall, who is an active member of the “other side” of the gym during basketball games.

Randall really enjoys the camaraderie that is created with the students on one side and the parents and staff/faculty members that sit on the other side of the bleachers. If you’ve ever been at an intense basketball game in Sherwood, you have been apart of the “Go Whitman” chants, where the students yell “Go” and the adults yell back “Whitman.” Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the adults to get with it, but eventually they join the students and provide the team with the momentum it needs to play at a high level.

“We like to think that we have a major impact on the opposing player’s performance. We’ve caused turnovers, bad shots and have shifted the momentum of games,” said fellow superfan Steven Woolston. “If the other team’s momentum noticeably suffers and they make fundamental errors, we interpret their shortcomings as our success.”

The student section, while refusing to hold back from yelling at the refs about how much they suck at their jobs, credits much of the team’s success on the court to their own hype off of it. As much as the referees are reprimanded for being blind and needing glasses, the superfans of the game expect nothing less than fair play.

“If Austin Butler takes four steps before he embarrasses a defender by dunking so hard his elbows get stuck in the rim, by all means, call the travel,” Woolston and Stephens admitted. “But if the whole arena can see Joey Hewitt get elbowed in the face by an opposing player without any foul called, you better believe we’re going to let the refs hear it. It’s simply ridiculous. It’s a small arena. We can all see what happened.”

As the Blues advanced into the NCAA tournament, the superfans of the student section were forced to cheer from afar. Unfortunately with the final days of Whitman basketball behind us this season, the Blues will have to wait eight months to start their chants again. At least the student section has the offseason to recover.