Standing-room only crowd lifts No.2 Vikings to 83-76 win in overtime against No.4 Seattle Pacific
Feb. 3, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - By Alex Bigelow, WWU Sports Information Intern
It was a scene to behold.
At Sam Carver Gymnasium in the heart of Western Washington University, players and fans embraced one another and arms were raised high celebrating victory; a remarkable victory.
WWU, ranked No.2 nationally and the defending NCAA Division II national champion, had fought back to defeat No. 4 Seattle Pacific, 83-76 in overtime, before a standing-room only crowd of 2,490.
"There is no feeling like this," said WWU Super Fan Sam Werner after the win. "I feel a connection with these guys. When they miss a shot, I miss a shot, so when they hit a game-winner, I hit a game-winner."
Werner, with his long golden hair falling out of a Viking helmet stuck to his head, was breathless and a bit hoarse following the dramatic victory, but he still managed to explain the lengths he would go for this team.
"I failed my last physics test because I didn't study the night before and came to a doubleheader of men and women's games," he said. "It's just the dedication for these guys who we love."
Although most students probably wouldn't sacrifice their academic standing to watch back-to-back games, Werner and the droves of other fans that come and support WWU are having an impact.
Just ask WWU guard Richard Woodworth.
"They're everything for us," Woodworth said. "Hearing that crowd on the court, hearing them erupt gives me chills. It's beyond my wildest dreams.
"We love you guys so much, and we do it for you guys. We keep pushing every day because they give us energy to keep moving forward."
The energy, the pure electric and palpable atmosphere that brought chills to Woodworth, aptly nicknamed the "Ice Man," was brutally apparent at the end of the game when SPU had numerous chances to seal the game from the free throw line.
SPU all-star guard David Downs, who entered the game shooting 79 percent at the free throw line, succumbed to the deafening roars of the WWU fan base and missed four consecutive free throws near end of the game.
Downs wasn't alone, however.
SPU as a team missed seven of its final eight free throws at the end of regulation, all to the backdrop of fan's willing to sacrifice more than just their voices for WWU to remain undefeated.
And as the game got closer and WWU grasped a lead in overtime, players like Rico Wilkins and Woodworth raised their arms, motioning the crowd to unleash its mighty power.
Upon demand, it did just that; old and young, student and community member summoned thunderous reverberations that went throughout the building and the court. A team and its fans were working as one.
When looking around Carver Gym, there wasn't a seat to be had. People young and old coming together as a force of nature in support of a team that has galvanized a community and a school.
I've never seen Western like this," said WWU junior Luke Nichell. "Now that we're put on the map for a sport, and people are behind it, it's pretty nuts."
Nuts? Yeah, that seemed like an apt term following a game in which Nichell and his two friends witnessed older fans urging the students to get louder.
"I had adults, fans of guys on the team, they were all trying to get us pumped up and they were all about (the game)," said WWU junior Miles Brown. "It was like they were a part of us. It was awesome."
On Saturday, something beautiful occurred. Fans and players, each in their own way, made each other better. WWU went a long way to shedding the "fair-weather fan" moniker by sending shockwaves for the rest of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and the world, to hear.
Come to WWU, and you'll "Fear the Horns!"
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