Being a good basketball fan

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A relatively small number of Lakeland fans, a few dozen, gave their basketball team the home court advantage at King’s Fork Monday night.

The Cavalier players did the work and handled the pressure to get the win, Lakeland’s first over King’s Fork since the 2005-06 season. But a definite assist goes to the Cavalier faithful in the stands for adding at least two more games to Lakeland’s season, even with an 8-14 record that was 3-11 four weeks ago.

As it was King’s Fork’s gym, there were naturally more Bulldog fans on hand and ready to be as loud as ever.

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It’s been two years, but it’s easy to recall how outnumbered Bulldog fans more than held their own when No. 2 King’s Fork faced No. 1 Petersburg in the state semifinals, right up the road from the Crimson Wave, in Richmond.

On Monday, though, the game simply turned in Lakeland’s favor. Once the Cavaliers gave their side of the gym something to cheer about, rallying from a 30-17 deficit midway through the third period, the momentum switched and carried the Cavs across the finish line to a 46-45 win.

Lakeland earned a district semifinal game Wednesday evening at King’s Fork and a spot in the 16-school Eastern Region Tournament.

When the Lakers visit the Celtics or vice-versa, I’m not sure fans make any difference. With elite pros having played thousands of games as home and guest, any loud, chaotic scene probably has the same effect, no matter where the building is.

With youngsters, though — and judging by recent big games on TV, “youngster” still goes all the way up to North Carolina vs. Duke levels — a little more energy, a little more confidence and a little more momentum might be all that’s needed in a game that could go either way.

As soon as Lakeland chipped into King’s Fork’s lead, and then especially with two Cavalier baskets to end the third period and cut KF’s lead down to a basket, the home court advantage had little to do with the color or logos on the court.

Joy for one side means heartbreak for the other. The passion of March Madness, even the high school equivalent, cuts both ways.

The Bulldogs going 17-5 and finishing runner-up in the balanced Southeastern District, and then dropping one one-point game and being done for the season — well, that was harsh with an argument toward cruel.

So show up, scream and cheer for your school as basketball’s postseason continues and narrows. It might play a small role.

At the same time, being a fan is not a license to be insulting or vulgar. Even with the dramatic difference between advancing to the next round and a senior’s last game, it’s all about high school kids on the court. Be as loud as possible, but be as good a fan for your team as possible.