UNO has played in the Sapp Fieldhouse forever. Well not really forever, but for the last 50 years. It's the "barn" on campus and it never made sense to play anywhere else. Some would say it still doesn't, but regardless they are moving to a bigger and brand new arena a few miles down the road next year.
To celebrate the last game at the Sapp Fieldhouse I reunited the members of "The Bullpen", the student section I had started at UNO. None of us are still in college, but I was able to get a good crowd of around 10, and we took up our old position along the baseline near the opposing team's bench.
We got a chance to yell some things at the UNK players and tried our best to act like the idiots we were in college. Needless to say, it wasn't hard. I don't think we've grown up very much since then. The game was really not that great. UNK had lost two of their best players to injury in the previous few weeks so they were already in trouble and UNO showed they were prepared by racing to an early lead. There were few exciting moments although UNO actually had their final basket in the Sapp Fieldhouse come via an alley-oop.
The real fun came after the game ended as we stood around and reminisced about the memories we had of the building and the events within. It was like a funeral; but a funeral where the person wasn't dead yet, just not a part of your life anymore. What follows are some of those memories.
Our first year of going to games our men's team was playing at the #5 team in the country while our women were playing at home. We went to the women's game and after the game we went up to the press area and got updates from the men's game. Once the men were victorious we stormed the now empty court to celebrate.
Our first conference game we celebrated 70's night (when the conference was founded) by dressing up like we were from the 70's. There were several great costumes but the highlight of the night was a sign from the women's game. One girl from the other team, Molly Hayes, seemed to catch my eye at one point during the game. I decided to write my phone number on a poster for her: "Molly my number is XXX-XXX-XXXX if you want it!" I saw some of her family taking pictures of it later and ended up having my picture taken with her and the sign. We're still Facebook friends to this day.
The Northwest Missouri State women's coach had a good relationship with us. We were mean to them of course, but he really seemed to enjoy our humorous heckling and his young son would stand by us and cheer for them. The North Dakota women's coach told us he wished we would come cheer for them and told us he'd buy us beer if we did.
We got told to sit down once by a referee and probably broke a few rules over the years, but we kept things pretty civil and would scold members of our group who cursed at games. We'd like to have fun; we didn't want things to be very personal.
My friend Sky got a little personal at the end of our conference tournament game against St. Cloud State though. UNO had been down double-digits before rallying late to take the lead. St. Cloud State had one last chance at the buzzer and as the ball fell short their star player ended up on the floor not far from the baseline. His career was over. Sky looked towards him and yelled, "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT." It was a funny moment, and thankfully Sky realized pretty quickly that was probably not a cool thing to yell.
The next year the best game was against a top five team in Southwest Baptist. We prepared for the game by searching the internet for pictures of their players. We ended up with two great ones. One was of one of their players "bending over" a woman at a party. She had very sweaty armpits. The other was of a player taking a picture of himself in the mirror, shirtless, with his cellphone. We blew both of the pictures up and printed large posters of them.
We definitely got some reactions from their players when they saw the posters, but we got more of a reaction from some of their women's team. One of the girls came over and told us that the player bending over the woman was, in fact, her boyfriend. She reminded us that they go to a Baptist college and that he could get kicked out of school for the photo. Why he didn't think of that when he posted it on his Facebook is beyond me. She later stole the poster while we were holding up the other one.
UNO had a fantastic dunk during the game by Justin Peterson. He basically jumped over one of their post players. Sky and I went ballistic. To be fair, the entire UNO bench did as well which has been chronicled in a Facebook album of a series of photos that just happened to be taken of them as they reacted to the dunk. The problem was going ballistic for Sky and I ended up involving us jumping off the bleachers we were standing on and there just happened to a mother with a young child walking by as we did. Thankfully no one was hurt!
A couple of years ago UNO earned the #3 seed in their conference tournament by winning a game in double overtime, 113-111. The game ended with Dion Curry putting in a shot on a rebound at the buzzer. Dion had been suspended for a game earlier in the year. His comeback story was great as he earned more playing time and did all the things he needed to after his mistakes. To see him get to make that shot to end his final home game as a senior was awesome. Some students "rushed" the court and I got to go up to him and tell him how much his hard work to get back to that point meant to me. Dion was a great guy, one of many I got to get to know and see play on that court.
My final great memory from that court was this year in November. In a tie game with five seconds left Caleb Steffensmeier took the inbound pass and ended up 28 feet from the basket as he rose for a 3-pointer at the buzzer. I was privileged enough to be doing play-by-play for UNO that afternoon. "With four, with three, Steffensmeier, he's going to have to take a 3-pointer. At the buzzer... IT'S GOOOOOOD! THE MAVERICKS WIN!!" The local news ended up playing my call along with the video that night; something I will never forget!
Writing this recap brought a lot of great memories back to the forefront of my mind. I loved watching UNO basketball at the Sapp Fieldhouse and all the great times that came with it. Next year we'll start building memories in a new building. It's a lot closer to my house and will sell alcohol! The building should help create a better atmosphere, and maybe more fans will turn out to help create a real home court advantage. The Sapp Fieldhouse will stand strong though. It'll still be the home of the Women's Basketball team and the Women's Volleyball teams, and I know that it is the home of the memories of many people in Omaha like me.
at NEBRASKA-OMAHA 85, NEBRASKA-KEARNEY 68 02/15/2012
NEBRASKA-OMAHA 10-16 (0-0) -- M. Albers 5-13 8-9 19; C. Carter 6-11 2-2 14; A. Welhouse 9-16 0-0 24; C. Steffensmeier 4-8 0-0 9; J. Karhoff 3-7 4-4 10; M. Hagerbaumer 0-2 1-2 1; J. Coleman 2-3 0-0 4; I. Gandy 1-8 0-0 2; J. Ring 0-2 0-0 0; T. Egli 0-1 0-0 0; M. Farr 0-0 0-0 0; B. Freeman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 31-73 15-17 85.
Three-point goals: - , NEBO 8-21 (C. Carter 0-2; C. Steffensmeier 1-3; I. Gandy 0-3; T. Egli 0-1; M. Albers 1-3; A. Welhouse 6-9); Rebounds: , NEBO 38 (A. Welhouse 8); Assists: , NEBO 22 (C. Steffensmeier 7); Total Fouls -- , NEBO 16; Fouled Out: -; NEBO-None.