Wolf Pack fans devastated by loss | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack fans devastated by loss

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Alberto Garcia watches the final seconds of the Wolf Pack game Thursday afternoon at Stew's Sportatorium. An overlooked Montana team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, leaving Nevada fans shocked at their team's early exit from the big dance. Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

It was supposed to be the easy game. A sure thing. The opening battle in what would no doubt become an extended war. Apparently nobody told the Grizzlies.

Fans from the area gathered around televisions and hunched over radios on their lunch breaks to root on the Wolf Pack. While they disagreed on how deep into the NCAA Tournament the Wolf Pack would go, the fan predictions all had them making it past the first round.

In a packed house at Stews Sportatorium on Thursday afternoon, the Pack faithful watched the University of Montana take the lead and never look back in the Grizzlies’ 87-79 victory.

“They look kind of out of sync,” said Mark Falconer, 50, of Minden, during the first half. “I think Montana is just more up for the game today than we are.”

Yet Falconer, a fan for nearly 20 years, still had faith the Pack would get it together at half-time and come away with the victory.

“They can go to the Elite Eight. They have the talent if they can just play their game,” he said.

In the upper section of the restaurant, 82-year-old Bob Haley, of Carson City, had hardly touched the Reuben in front of him, more worried about the game than his food getting cold.

“I have been a fan for 41 years,” Haley said. “I hope they win but (Montana) has a better team than I thought. I don’t know how far they will go, but they may have trouble getting through this game.”

Even with the Wolf Pack trailing at the half, there was still optimism.

“It’s still great. As soon as they can get more points it will work out and we will win,” said Jack Cooke, 48, of Carson City. “They are going all the way and I think this (game) will be their toughest.”

As time ticked away and fans reluctantly returned to work, only the die-hards remained, watching the minutes count off.

Alberto Garcia could do nothing but watch, hat in hand, as Nevada’s season slipped away. Too upset to speak, Garcia sat silently moving only to bury his eyes as the Grizzlies’ lead grew.

Michael Stewart, owner of Stew’s and a longtime Wolf Pack fan himself, summed up the emotions in the room with less than a minute to go.

“It’s devastating. It’s just awful,” Stewart said. “We had a good crowd and we all thought they’d make it past the first round. This is just devastating.”

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