Civic Center visit rocks with March Madness
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Being in the spotlight of the West Virginia State Boys Basketball Tournament means dressing the part.
Students from each of the 24 participating schools can be counted on to don facepaint, masks, wild wigs and crazy T-shirts -- giving the tournament splashes of color in the stands.
Even Gumby and Pokey sat in the rafters.
The two costumed characters were portrayed by D.J. Phelps, a Beckley High School graduate, and Hunter Greco, a senior.
They were accompanied by Beckley High School sophomore John Lively. Lively had a bare chest painted white. He had a maroon "WW" on his chest for the school's other name, Woodrow Wilson, as it's known at home.
"They kicked me out of the student section," Lively said. "For not having a shirt."
On the front row of the Beckley section was senior Tyhler Cook. But you wouldn't know it by looking at his face. You couldn't even see his face.
Cook wore a maroon superfan spandex suit that even covered his head.
"I can see a little bit," Cook said. "You gotta go crazy."
Trevor Meade, a senior at Buffalo High School, had half his head painted blue and half gold. He also wore a blue and gold Mohawk wig and sported gold-striped bib overalls as his clothing.
Was this his regular school clothing?
"No, not every day," Meade said.
His classmates also carried a giant cardboard cutout of the head of Buffalo trainer Robbie Gordon.
"I'm very honored," Gordon said. "I tape ankles with the best of them."
Hurricane students wore "Crazy Canes" T-shirts, designating their status as fanatical.
The term came about a few months ago when students were cheering "and we were crazy," said 10th-grader Leighanna Connell.
A classmate managed to get some sponsors and made shirts available for everybody.
"This is one of the largest student sections we've had in a while," said sophomore Jacey Creech.
Hurricane business education teacher Adam Feazell stood out in the crowd.
He had vibrant red hair. And a bold red beard.
It's not his natural color.
"Each game we try to go farther and farther," Feazell said. "I told them last week if we could get 300 students to the game, I would let the team dye my hair red. We did it in a boy's kitchen. His mother just sat there looking at it."
That was last Wednesday.
The red hair has remained.
"It won't come off. I've gone to Wal-Mart, everywhere. It just kind of stays."
Then there was Hurricane senior Joey Gowen, who was decked out in full Indian garb.
Turns out that was for a reason.
"I'm the mascot," Gowen said. "Chief Big Bear."***
Practically half of Putnam County came out for the first session of the basketball tournament.
Buffalo High School tipped off the tournament in a game against Charleston Catholic.
Then Hurricane High took the court against Beckley.
Buffalo lost 61-48, but Bison fans hung around to cheer for Hurricane.
"We're here to support them also, to support our fellow community," said Buffalo sophomore Destiny Huttenstine.
Hurricane was making its first ever appearance in the state tournament, which was celebrating its 100th year. The Redskins lost 63-54 to Beckley, although the game was very close throughout.
Hurricane resident Lisa Fawcett was attending the game with daughters Lindsay Jones, a sophomore, and Hayden Jones, a Hurricane graduate who is now a student at the University of North Carolina.
"She's on spring break from college," Fawcett said of Hayden. "She's glad this happened."
Even Sheriff Steve Deweese managed to make it to the tournament. He's a Poca High School graduate and lives in Scott Depot.
"That's why I wore my neutral colors," Deweese joked, acknowledging that he was actually wearing his sheriff's uniform.
"I'm just talking to people, seeing everyone around and reminiscing about the good old days."
The Hurricane fan section was filled with active fans.
On a radio broadcast, MetroNews broadcaster Fred Persinger made note of it.
"Win or lose, the town of Hurricane can be very proud of the backing they've had at the Charleston Civic Center," Persinger said on the statewide broadcast. ***
Being a senior means great responsibility.
It also means front row seats at the state boys basketball tournament.
"We got here first," Charleston Catholic Senior Jessica Miller said proudly from her position at the front of the student section during the opening session of the tournament.
"We ran," added her friend, senior Sarah Simonton.
Charleston Catholic is the only high school in the state within walking distance of the Charleston Civic Center, and its students take advantage of that.
Students again walked to the tournament from the school, as the student body does every time the Irish compete there.
From the front row, the seniors led the rest of the green-clad section in chants and cheers.
"It's our year," said senior Jack Crockett. "It's always the seniors' job to get everyone involved."
Particularly active was senior Drew Cable, who said he had been voted class clown. He had nearly lost his voice before the start of the third quarter against Buffalo, which Charleston Catholic won, 61-48.
"Check it out," Cable said, flexing his bicep. "I got the guns, the vocals -- and I got the moves, too. I'm probably the loudest one in the school."
Looking for a twist on classic arena fare?
The Civic Center features a "Build Your Own Hotdog" stand.
Step 1. Choose your bun: You can select between grilled or plain sliced.
Step 2. Pick your frank: Beef hot dog, Polish sausage, Italian sausage or turkey dog.
Step 3. Choose your toppings: chili sauce, cheddar cheese sauce, sauteed peppers & onions, warm kraut, pizza sauce, bacon strips, tri-colored tortilla chips.
Step 4. Choose your condiments: jalapenos, sweet relish, sour cream, chopped onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, olives, salsa, coleslaw, shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
Step 5. Enjoy.