A sell-out, standing-room-only crowd cheered the Marietta College Pioneers on to their first NCAA tournament win in more than 30 years Friday night at Ban Johnson Arena.
Tickets for the tournament game sold out in only 72 minutes, and those fortunate enough to get tickets were behind the home team from the start.
A standing ovation greeted the Pioneers as they made their grand entrance onto the court, and the crowd noise and energy was non-stop all game long.
Marietta College basketball players thank fans waiting in line to buy tickets to the Saturday champi
Chuck Robinson and Alex Couladis, co-captains of the 1974-75 Pioneers were introduced to another huge response from the crowd.
After Couladis delivered a stirring version of the national anthem, the Pio support group was ready to go.
"Like usual, our crowd was great," said Pioneer head coach Jon VanderWal. "I think it helps us out a bunch when things get tight down the stretch, to have them cheering for us and to have our back. It really provides a great atmosphere."
LARRY KAVE Special to The Times
Marietta College junior Kevin Knab attempts a layup in Friday’s game against Centre. The Pioneers won 67-62.
The student section gathered early and was all over the visiting Centre Colonels as they went through their pre-game shootaround.
Loud all the time, humorous at others, the crowd made Ban Johnson a very tough place to play for the visitors.
"Marietta is a very good team, and this was a very tough environment to play in."said Centre head coach Greg Mason.
More on the tourney
Check this website Saturday night for the outcome of the game against Wittenberg.
Marietta College student Connor Walters helped create that atmosphere, painting the letter "R" on himself to spell out Marietta in the crowd.
"It was a crazy game," said Walters, 20. "We had a great crowd there tonight."
Walters won't be in the crowd Saturday when the Pioneers take on the Wittenberg Tigers, who defeated the La Roche Redhawks in the early game Friday night. He's headed for a spring break training trip with other members of the college's crew team.
However, he's confident that the fans who will be staying behind will be "trying to make up for those of us that won't be there."
Tickets for Saturday's game go on sale at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Ban Johnson lobby.
Evan Bevins contributed.