By Scott Robertson
First, congratulations to Steve Forbes, his assistants, and most of all, his players, for making men’s Buccaneer basketball relevant again. I attended Monday night’s conference championship game, eschewing press row for the cheap seats behind the Bucs basket where I could watch the action on the court, the Bucs bench and the Bucs crowd. Here are some observations from my notepad.
• “Uptown Funk” by pep band before tip-off – Great energy. Fans into it.
• Ticky-tack foul called against Bucs 19 seconds into the game. Uh-oh. – I hate to be the sports radio caller who complains that the refs didn’t call the game down the middle. But the refs didn’t call the game down the middle.
• Three fouls called against ETSU in the first 1:24 of the game. – Bucs have to pull their point guard and there’s no score yet. Seriously?
• The Mocs D is sharp. – Chattanooga gives few uncontested shots in the first half. Bucs constantly having to adjust their shots, virtually no second shots for the Bucs.
• Mocs by 12 at the half. –Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” plays over the P.A. – Good advice.
• Bucs open the second half cutting the Mocs lead. Crowd getting loud again. –Whatever Coach Forbes said at halftime appears to have awakened some guys who looked lethargic in the first.
• Mocs lead down to seven. TV timeout. Bucs pep band plays White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” Gary Mabrey noticeably grooving to it in the stands. The Johnson City Chamber president was just one of many prominent Bucs backers who made the trip to Asheville. At times their energy rivaled that of the student section. Can’t say enough about the Buc fans.
• Refs call three fouls on Bucs on one Chattanooga possession. – 48-40 Mocs and suddenly the Bucs are in foul trouble.
• Bucs cut Mocs’ lead to 48-47. – Fans in upper deck unroll banner: “Supreme Confidence!” Arena is rocking!
• But, loooong TV timeout at 48-47. – Cannot help the Bucs momentum.
• Bucs miss layup that would have given them their first lead. 50-49 Mocs.
• With Mocs pulling back away, Bucs call time. ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland and Athletic Department COO Scott Carter take the floor with the cheerleaders! Noland tells one side of the arena to chant “Go!” while Carter leads the other side to yell “Bucs!” The arena rings out with “Go Bucs!”
• Mocs hitting three-point shots now. – Unless the Bucs do something spectacular here, the Mocs will go home winners. Noland doffs his jacket and joins the student section behind the goal.
• The Bucs do something, but it’s not spectacular. – After being mauled without a foul called against Chattanooga, a Buc player says something to the ref. Technical foul. Forbes says something to the same official. As Forbes’ back is turned and he is already walking away, the ref tees up Forbes as well.
• Mocs win.
• Post-game: Noland and Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander take Forbes aside, shake his hand and put their hands on his shoulders. – Whatever is said, judging by the expressions on the men’s faces, bodes well for the future. The show of support for the coach is obvious. And well-deserved. The Bucs will go to a post-season tourney. Already can’t wait for next year.