Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Just give the fans a reason,
then watch out

THE crowd wanted to explode. The crowd wanted to run wild, a voracious brush fire out of control, sweeping through everything in its path. The crowd ached to absolutely lose it. Every series, every second hung on the edge of spontaneous combustion.

It came close in the Stan Sheriff Center last night, with boos and cheers and chants. It was loud. People just about came out of their seats. But they didn't, not quite. Every time they came close they were swept back to reality, were forced to catch their breath yet again. They were left with a frustrating grip on their own self-control.

It was fun. It felt warm and wonderful. With a win over Georgia in the final, this game turned into the feel-good ride of the holiday season. But the sonic boom, the one that could have blasted the SCC dome onto Cooke Field, will have to wait for another day.

But the Rainbows won anyway, and danced and hugged at center court.

And what a great day that will be. Because it could get even better than this.

The crowd wanted it last night, oh how it wanted this game. You could feel it. The fans made you feel it. And the Rainbows responded, but they're still waiting for the game that will make this town run screaming through the streets. All they needed was another run. The right big play at the right big time. A spark to ignite a fire of Billy Joel song proportions.

It could have happened last night. In fact perhaps some will say it did. Savo's basket at the buzzer brought confetti and celebrations and standing ovations. Everybody stood and smiled, balling up their fists and bouncing up and down like a kid on Christmas morning.

It was a sneak preview of what could be. The whole crowd could storm the court like the two crazed youngsters who ran out to give Carl English a hug.

This team could cause that kind of passion, once it gets its game together. This crowd wants it. They called the officials "the Grinch" and "Ebeneezer." The crowd wants confetti and confusion and trophies and chants that chill the spine.

And it can happen. We saw it last night.

Three words: S ... E ... C. This was a big win, a quality win, and the Rainbows didn't even play the perfect game. It didn't even push the crowd quite into a delirious frenzy.

Savo played solid, but never got in a zone. Mark Campbell did his job, but passed up shots in the pregame layup line. Haim Shimonovich was the tourney MVP for the way he Hoovered up loose objects, but his foul trouble sent him to the bench before he could become an offensive force.

Phil Martin. His late play may have made the difference, with dunks and drives. He came closest to letting the fans have a Cameron Indoor Stadium moment.

A great night, but the perfect game awaits.

The WAC awaits. Fresno State is here just after Christmas, and after its first "test" game, Hawaii looks like it just might be ready.

Where are the fans? everyone asks, but they were there last night. And they showed up ready to explode.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

E-mail to Sports Editor

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