Looking at potential games to attend over my winter break, I crafted a few itineraries: one kept me local for economic reasons, another would take me to Moraga, a third to San Francisco and Stockton, if there were not familial conflicts. But one game always made the list: Sac State-Idaho State. If one merely looks at the records, you might wonder why one would go to a game featuring lackluster teams in on the west coast's smallest gyms. My rationale stems from an old Greek concept, nostalgia.
My first college basketball experience featured these two teams on February 24th, 2004. My brother, my Dad (not the biggest sports fan, but often up for a family experience), and I piled into our car and made the 15-mile jaunt to the small university gym, humbly disguised as another building on campus, as Kevin would discover seven years later. Like any child or geeked teen, I overlooked the size of the gym, fascinated more by the student support and the band.
The Hornets compiled a 24-3 run in the first half and 29-10 to develop a comfortable lead and eliminated most of the suspense.
With 5:16 left in the game, Idaho State's Jesse Smith missed a jump shot. Senior Joel Jones corralled the rebound and started to turn upcourt.....darkness! The Hornet's Nest had become as black as the back of an UNO card. Being February, we knew it was not warm enough to force a rolling blackout, so we knew something in the building had to have gone wrong.
For about a half-hour, the crowd was entertained by the band and Sac State-related chants. In an effort to find out updates, I pulled out my handy Walkman radio, which I had initially used to follow along before I discovered the delay evident in every broadcast.
I learned the Hornets play-by-play guy had managed to use the phone in a nearby athletic department room to connect with the larger broadcast station, 1380 AM KTKZ, and provided a relatively straight-forward update: there had been a campus-wide blackout, and they were working to restore power. After about ten more minutes of collegiate-fueled excitement, my dad decided to pull the plug on the family excursion.
By the time we got to the front entrance, the power had returned, but our fun was over for the evening. As I heard the end of the runaway victory, I internalized a valuable lesson: never leave early.
Six years, 10 months and 25 days later, I found myself at the place where my basketball journey started, looking for change inside the car. Then, I did not have to worry about finances or the future. Now, I was in the parking lot of a university I have not attended four months before confronting an uncertain future, mentally kicking myself for not shopping around at the War Memorial Gym food cart.
Had I not bought the last meatball sandwich and gotten a Don Dog, I would have been four dollars richer and spent my usual ten to fifteen minutes prepping for the game and performing a final eye test. Instead I scrambled into the Hornet's Nest with less than two minutes to go after successfully finding enough nickles and dimes to make up the missing two dollars needed for the entry ticket.
Before, I was fascinated by the energy of the student section. At the tip, the only student support was a four-part band, and the student section was empty.
Around the under-eight media timeout, a pack of 20 bros made their entrance and strolled all the way around to the student section, located in the opposite corner of the Nest, thinking the game started at 7:30.
As the half progressed, I felt history would repeat itself, as Sac State worked the ball inside and built a double-digit lead as high as 16. Idaho State stayed aggressive and managed to cut the lead to ten.
Sac State lead 35-25 and felt like they would finally get their first conference win. The halftime show featured a return of the basketball/bowling hybrid; this time won by a young lass sporting a pink 49ers long-sleeved shirt in the last few seconds.
Sac State continued to score inside and when Konner Vaneto hit a layup to put Sac State up 20, 48-28, the bros, including one who wore a Tebow jersey, decided they had seen enough.
After another layup by Veneto put the Hornets up 54-32, I had a flashback to Thursday, I gave up an opportunity to visit Moraga and I was stuck watching another blowout.
By the under-eight MTO, the Bengals had cut the deficit to 15 by forcing turnovers. Two minutes later, the lead was down to single digits. A good storyteller might tell you how the Bengals managed a 13-point run; I was distracted by the trio of social bees who landed right behind me and flirted with almost every attractive male they saw and specifically rooted for the guys they found cute, like Idaho State's Kenny McGowen, Andre' Hattchett and Sherrod Baldwin.
The bees were quieted as the Hornets pushed the lead back to 14 but they started yelling again as Baldwin, Hatchett and McGowen cut the lead to six with a little over a minute left
The next possession saw Chase Grabu steal the ball from Hornet point guard Dylan Garrity, make a layup and earned the right to close to within four, which he could not do.
A pair of McGowen free throws cut the lead to three and increased my chance of needing a hearing aid later on in my life. McGowen was called for a foul on Garrity, who had the chace to make it a three possession game if he hit both free throws. Missing the first, the Bengals called a timeout to plan the endgame. Garrity made the second to make it a five-point defecit with 31 seconds left.
Kenny McGowen missed a layup, but luckily teammate Abner Moreira managed to reach up and knock the ball in to cut the lead to two. Timeout Hornets.
As Sac State inbounded, the Bengals put on a man-to-man defense trying very carefully to not foul, but a ref thought Sherrod Baldwin had bumped into Heath Hoffman and the Hornets had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 12 seconds left
Hoffman missed the first and the crowd moaned. Hoffman hit the second and the crowd briefly relaxed. Final timeout, Bengals. My hands were shaking as I filmed the Green Army contingent. I was hoping for overtime!
Kendal Groom came in for the Hornets, replacing Jackson Carbajal. Idaho State briskly got the ball to Kenny McGowan.
He rose fired and was fouled by Groom. TIE GAME! For the first time since Melvin Morgan hit a pair of free throws to take the lead 9-8, the Bengals had a chance to take the lead.
Final timeout, Hornets! The Green Army contingent played a brief version of the Immigrant Song, the same song as the player introductions. Could this be the harbinger of overtime?
Shaking like the last leaf on the tree in fall, I was praying for Kenny to miss the free throw for overtime. My prayers were not answered as McGowan calmly sank the free throw, completing the four-point play and nearly causing an aneurysm for the social bees.
Groom was promptly subbed out for Carbajal; the trade for defense had failed miserably.
The Hornets got the ball to Carbajal; he rose and aimed a superhoop for the win!
Sherrod Baldwin was not willing to let the dream die as he blocked the superhoop attempt, and the Bengals quickly celebrated at halfcourt before running to the locker room before a stunned Hornet crowd.
Nostalgia comes from the Greek root nostos meaning "a return home" and algos meaning pain or as a 60s adman was told, the pain from an old wound.
To my inner Hornet fan, the wound from hearing the team lose in the conference tournament after that stellar blowout over the Bengals had opened up again. To my more objective self, I had managed to observe polar opposites in game results: a home blowout win and a comeback win for the visitors. When one looks back to an earlier time nostalgia can occur. Inevitably, the memory falls short and one has to accept the differences of time and move onto the next event in life, remembering the good times for what they were.
This is why I do not leave events early: anything can happen.
IDAHO STATE 68, at SACRAMENTO STATE 67 01/14/2012
IDAHO STATE 4-13 (2-3) -- C. Grabau 7-15 6-6 20; K. McGowen 5-14 6-6 19; A. Moreira 3-10 0-1 6; M. Morgan 2-7 2-2 7; A. Hatchett 3-5 4-6 10; S. Baldwin 3-9 0-2 6; D. Kostur 0-2 0-0 0; G. Swanson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-64 18-23 68. SACRAMENTO STATE 5-11 (0-5) -- D. Garrity 2-2 4-5 9; J. Dickson 4-9 5-7 13; J. Eberhard 2-5 4-5 8; K. Veteto 9-13 7-10 25; J. Demalleville 0-0 1-2 1; H. Hoffman 1-2 1-2 4; J. Carbajal 1-5 2-4 5; J. McCarver 1-3 0-0 2; P. Rakocevic 0-1 0-0 0; K. Groom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-40 24-35 67.
Three-point goals: IDST 4-13 (S. Baldwin 0-1; C. Grabau 0-2; K. McGowen 3-8; M. Morgan 1-2), SAC 3-8 (J. Eberhard 0-1; J. Dickson 0-1; J. Carbajal 1-3; H. Hoffman 1-2; D. Garrity 1-1); Rebounds: IDST 26 (A. Moreira 10), SAC 37 (J. Eberhard 11); Assists: IDST 12 (K. McGowen 5), SAC 17 (D. Garrity 9); Total Fouls -- IDST 23, SAC 24; Fouled Out: IDST-None; SAC-J. Demalleville.