Considering the way the Bentley students were cheering, you would have thought Tax Day came early this year. A quick check of the calendar revealed that April 15th was still three weeks away. So why were the undergrads from Bentley, an accounting and finance college, ecstatically jumping up and down like they'd just been audited?
To understand, you had to crunch the numbers.
It was a Blizzard Party for Bentley, experiencing its first Elite Eight.
The finale of Wednesday's super-duper-quadruple-header at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, a punted basketball from the Basketball Hall of Fame, pitted No. 1 undefeateds Winona State (33-0) and Bentley (32-0), in the Division II quarterfinals. WSU, a quaint school in Minnesota, was looking to extend its D-II record for consecutive wins to 56 while taking another step towards a second straight national title.
In their way was Bentley, sporting a New England D-II consecutive wins record, accompanied by, roughly, 1,500 student supporters -- the same number as the Cameron Crazies -- who had made the 82 mile drive from their Waltham campus.
"You wear purple" (clap clap clap-clap-clap), chanted the snowflakes in the Bentley Blizzard (midway through the season the student section took on that name and started creating whiteouts) as the WSU Warriors did layup lines. "Go play hockey" (clap clap clap-clap-clap), they mocked the quasi-Canucks. Winona State's fans, all 400 of them, attempted a feeble comeback that was quickly swallowed up by a "We can't hear you" chant.
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During the regular season about 30 of us show up," said Bentley senior Lee Ryan, "But it's our first time in the Elite Eight so we gotta bring the support." Hoops Odyssey has seen some exceptional student sections on this trip, including the Crazies, Illinois' Orange Crush, and the underrated Oral Roberts' Mabee Maniacs.
And for the first ten minutes of this affair, the Blizzard was in the same league as those more storied student sections, clapping, stomping and banging its team on. "I'm skipping two classes: Cost and Management" and Securities and Exchange" said Carmen Fuzzillo, a junior accounting major. "But...I can make them up on the weekend."
"Dude," said his friend, smacking his forehead, "now your parents are going to know."
Bentley mocked the Warriors' purple, but Winona St. had the last laugh.
The Blizzard's fun, however, was short lived. The Warriors, far superior athletically and technically, pulled away in the second half with a 12-0 run. Senior guard Zach Malvik scored 19 points, and D-II National Player of the Year, John Smith, recorded a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds), including a Jordanesque up and under layup as Winona State won its 56th straight game, 64-51.
As the Warriors dribbled out the clock, the defeated Bentley fans sagged like wet laundry. Winona's crew seized the moment with their most audible chant of the evening:"Why so quiet?" (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) the fans in purple asked.
They got no response.