Monday, January 14, 2013
There is nothing a Timberland – Cross basketball game. When Cross visits Timberland, it’s a spectacle, but when Timberland comes to Cross it’s an event.
The reason is the size of the Cross gymnasium. It’s tiny.
When I played high school basketball in northeastern Indiana, many of the schools still had the small “Cracker Box” gymnasiums built before World War II. They were tiny, cramped, muggy, and packed to the rafters with fans on Friday nights.
Because of the cramped confines and the acoustics, these gyms were LOUD. I discovered the meaning of the word “deafening,” when you could see your coach’s mouth moving but not hear a word.
When you hit a go-ahead bucket with less than a minute remaining in the game, that place erupted. You could feel the noise as a tremor in the pit of your gut.
Playing at Cross is like that, especially when Timberland comes to town.
Seating capacity at Cross is in the ballpark of 1,700 in the bleachers. When the Trojans play Timberland, those 1,700 spots sat much more, with the crowd packed like sardines in mustard sauce. There were more than 2,000 mustard soaked sardines in attendance last Friday night.
There’s not a lot of room between bleachers and courtside at CHS. Even in winter with all the body heat crammed inside it gets hot and muggy. Tempers grow short. And it gets LOUD.
Where you couldn’t sit, you stood, and this Friday night crowd brought new meaning to the sports event term, “Standing Room Only.”
There truly was no room left in the inn.
And the highlight reel isn’t confined to just the game. Sometimes there are near fights in the stands when Timberland fan and Cross followers must sit shoulder to shoulder.
Last year, in a show of community unity, the Timberland and Cross cheerleaders performed a joint cheer at halftime of the girls game. The packed house stood and roared.
Then barely a half hour later, prior to the beginning of the boys game, what started as a friendly cheer-off across opposite sides of the gym almost turned into a full-on riot out in the front lobby as the cheerleading squads made like the movie and “brought it on.”
This year, the crowd was pretty tame during the first few minutes of the boys game. The Trojans jumped out to a 10-3 lead off a Jaywann Washington 3-pointer. Then Timberland’s Austin McKinney entered the game.
Barely a half-minute and two steals later, McKinney pulled the Wolves to within three.
I knew what was coming. You could see it in Austin’s eyes. A third straight steal and breakaway led to one of those signature McKinney dunks, and the gym exploded.
I felt the noise in the pit of my gut. Nothing brings basketball fans to their feet more quickly in a tiny gym than a righteous slam dunk. And this one was righteous. So was the second one a few minutes later.
Sandwiched in between was a no-look McKinney pass to Shamell Williams from half court that gave Timberland the lead for good. Fans actually rushed the court a few feet when that happened.
That’s when I stopped taking pictures and became a fan myself.
Games like this bombard the five senses. I’ve been here five years and I haven’t missed one yet.