Adventures from the Elite Eight

Band director Carol Dunavent leads the pep band during the game.

This is the second part of Tim Downer’s road journal highlighting the madcap antics of the cheerleading squad and pep band while on the road to the Elite Eight bascketball tournament. Last week, the team stormed McDonald’s and arrived in Mnnesota for the first game of the Elite Eight tournament.

Wednesday 8:15am March 20. I felt that there was an air of anticipation with all of the travelers, as we headed down the highway, even though the game was still 10 hours away. At 11:15 a.m., we entered the state of Wisconsin and soon after, we could see some funny white substance on the ground. SNOW! This was a subtle reminder to us that winter is still very much alive in this state, even though it has almost vanished in Kentucky. In the back of the bus, they were listening to various CDs of a humorous nature. They were laughing so loud that they woke up some of the female cheerleaders. Amy had told me that all they did was eat, however, from my vantage point it looked like a lot of sleeping was done also. Noontime. We ate lunch at Dennys. A few people had a snowball fight. At 12:56 p.m. we were back on the bus watching a video of The Goonies. Somewhere along the way we crossed the state line into Minnesota. Along the highway near the town of Tomah, Minnesota, there were quite a few interesting looking natural rock formations near the highway. Too bad we couldn’t stop and check these sites out. Kahler Hotel, Rochester, Minnesota. We pulled in at 3:15 p.m. and went to our rooms with the instructions that we needed to meet in the lobby at 5 p.m. We would then walk over to the Civic Center via a skywalk. That was nice considering that the temperature was 17 degrees with a wind chill of 2 degrees. The Civic Center was not as fancy as it was made out to be on the internet. From my point of view the lighting at one end of the court was not very good for photographing the game. The NCAA was not allowing any type of additional lighting. No Flash Photography. The Pep Band was located near our team’s bench, underneath the basket. NKU brought the maximum number of band members allowed by the NCAA, fifteen, plus the director. South Dakota State didn’t bring a band and the cheerleaders they brought were no where near the talent level of NKU’s cheerleaders. Of course then our Pep Band and our cheerleaders are a tough act to follow for any school. Gametime 6 p.m. It was great from the beginning, both teams showed their ability with a fast paced tempo and a stingy defense. NKU was trailing at halftime by one point. Looking up in the stands during halftime, I would estimate that we had 100-200 people cheering on the Norse. I want to mention the fact that Joe Ruh, the Northern Kentucky University Photographer, was also at the game taking photos for the Athletic Department, as well as the University. His photo tips for me during the game were invaluable as always. Near the end of the game, I was yelling at one of the officials for a bad call and Joe pointed out to me that as a photographer standing underneath the basket, that sort of enthusiasm was not proper. I agreed. A Stunned, Hollow, Feeling. We all felt this when at the end of the game, we came up short by one point. There were no LOSERS in or at this game. The women of the NKU basketball team left their heart and soul on the court. A DEFINITE SHOWING OF THEIR CHARACTER. At 8:30 p.m. we all headed back to the hotel. Carol Dunavent, Pep Band Director, observed the fans from South Dakota State University being cordial and friendly as the band passed through the lobby of the Civic Center. This may not seem like a big deal, but remember that not all fans are as graceful in victory or defeat as the Norse and SDSU’s Jackrabbits. Post Game Gathering 9:30 p.m. There was a celebration in one of the meeting rooms at the Kahler Hotel. We were not celebrating that the NKU Women’s Basketball season was over, we were there to give tribute to the class organization of NKU Athletics and the supporting cast. Jane Meier, Athletic Director, and Nancy Winstel, Head Coach, both gave eloquent diatribes on the character of our fans, cheerleaders, the band and the families of our athletes. Never once did I hear any complaints from the basketball team, coaches and staff or anyone else in the room. Everyone accepted the fact that the season was over with dignity and class. I am proud to be a part of this NKU family. See next week’s shocking conclusion of “Adventures from the Elite Eight” entitled A long, cold journey.