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One heck of a ride

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Cory Bettinghouse, from left, Cory Hunt, Pat Barrett, and Kyle Jones, celebrate the Wolf Pack's victory over Utah State at Lawlor Events Center on Saturday.
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While the members of the University of Nevada Men’s Basketball Team went through their pre-game warm-ups, four members of the student body were finishing their own preparations for the game.

Before heading to the game, the four men painted themselves in blue and white with one goal in mind, keep the crowd pumped up and cheer the Pack on during their quest to become conference champions.

“We do it because we are freaking die-hard Nevada fans. We get the crowd pumped up and keep the energy up,” Cory Hunt, 20, of Reno, said.

Hunt, sporting a giant “A” was joined by Cory Bettinghouse, 20, of Edmonds, Wash., with a “P”, Pat Barrett, 21, of Reno with a “C”, and Kyle Jones, 21, of Auburn, Calif., with a “K”, in the front row of the student section.

“It took a little time to do this. We have done it a couple of times before but we didn’t want to look like a bunch of drunks, so we took more time tonight,” Hunt said. “Man it was cold outside, but it’s worth it.”

While the quartet was already seated and watching the pre-game activities, Steve Katzmann was just getting inside the Lawlor Events Center. He stopped to stow his ticket and check to make sure his curly blue wig was on straight.

“We’ve been fans for years now and I think we are doing really well. It’s great, we have recruited some real good talent, both players and coaches. I just hope we can continue to get good players and keep the coaches we have,” Katzmann, of Reno, said.

As for his hair, Katzmann said he got it at a game several years ago and tries to wear it whenever he can.

Vince Scott, of Incline Village, brought his two sons, 5-year-old Grant and 2-year-old Jake, along with his 14-year-old daughter Sarah to watch the game and hopefully watch the Pack walk away as champions.

“It’s just a great family activity. It will be a close game but we are going to win it,” Scott said. “The kids love it. They love the excitement of watching them play.”

Eleven-year-old Mike Cervantez and 10-year-old Jake Actis, both of Reno, just wanted a look at their favorite players. For Cervantez it was Mo Charlo, while Actis was looking for Kyle Shiloh.

“I like him because he got better as he played,” Actis said.

In the upper deck, Donald Hayden, 25, of Reno, was decked out in face paint and a wig of his own, screaming his support to drown out the opposing fans sitting one section over.

“I dress like this to keep spirits up and have a good time. It’s the WAC Championship so we had to do it. I did a lot of this in the parking lot before the game and I think I scared some people dressed like this,” Hayden said.

Jordan Zager, 13, of Zephyr Cove, was hoping for a Nevada victory to make sure Nevada represented the WAC in the NCAA tournament.

“I want to see them as the only WAC team in the tournament,” Zager said.

Down closer to the floor, Matt Bowman, a member of the Wolf Pack Baseball Team, from Dayton, was amazed at the support of the fans.

“It’s pretty intense in here. We play in front of a couple of thousand people but it’s nothing like the 10,000-plus in here. You can feel the intensity and the players can feed off the crowd,” Bowman said.

Seeking to keep the noise level up, four teenagers took it upon themselves to travel from section to section and provide some inspiration for the fans. Dustin Granata, 13, Chance Granata, 11, Tony Guidara, 13, and Anthony Rosa, 13, all of Reno were making the rounds through the upper sections.

“We just want to show our Pack spirit, and we thought maybe we’d get on ESPN and that would be cool,” Dustin said. “Most people were really supportive and cheered with us, but the Utah fans didn’t like it.”

The boys said that they had beach balls for later in the second half and were planning on starting the wave.

As the game remained close and the seconds ticked off, the four students adorned in Pack colors became more diligent, riding the ebb and flow of the game with the players on the court.

With the game tied and the ball in Utah State’s hands for the final possession, the painted four held their breath.

“It was pretty scary. We kind of hugged each other for support and just watched the shot,” Jones said.

When the final shot bounced away, Lawlor erupted with the joys and relief of the Pack faithful. Yet with overtime on the way, they couldn’t relax just yet.

The fans held their breath for the five-minute overtime and as the final shot missed and the Pack emerged victorious, the rumble from the fans became deafening.

“It’s the greatest thing. We knew we’d win it and now we are the best in the WAC,” Bettinghouse said as he rushed the floor to celebrate with the players. The four students stood watch under the basket as the players ascended the ladder and cut down the nets. But for the four students, the celebration had already given way to the Pack’s next task.

“Now we have to carry it over into the next tournament, that’s the next goal,” Jones said.

— Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.