Student support makes games great

The purpose of a student section at a basketball game is to provide vocal and visual support to the team on the court.

Of course, parents and alumni can provide that same enthusiasm from the stands, but fans within the student body make games more special. Just seeing fellow classmates at games can provide an extra boost for the players.

Don’t believe it? Ask Buckeye Local senior Becky Zeroski how she feels.

“The best part of basketball will always be looking up at the student section and hearing them cheer you on whether you’re winning or losing,” she said earlier this season.

She knows what she’s talking about, too. Zeroski surpassed the 1,000-point mark and became the Panthers all-time leading scorer this season. Her Buckeye Local girls basketball team fed off support from the students by earning its highest win total in a decade and advancing to the OVAC 4A title game.

I got to see the Buckeye Local student section first-hand at the OVAC semifinal game. A group of nearly 50 teenagers came out to support their girls and it helped the Panthers overcome an early deficit against Oak Glen.

The Buckeye Local student section even serenaded the Golden Bears in defeat with the “winning team-losing team” chant. Never heard it before? Check out “Utah State student section” on YouTube.

The Buckeye Local kids were almost as loud as the Aggies undergrads.

And, they’ve been even louder before in this past basketball season.

Buckeye Local Athletic Director Sam Jones told me that some crowds shook the gymnasium during games this season. “It was just like the old times,” he said.

It would be good for more of today’s students to show support to their athletic classmates, like it was back in the day.

I graduated in 2007 from a high school just an hour away from the Upper Ohio Valley. I can recall almost every basketball (boys and girls) and football game I attended had a student section of at least a dozen kids. From opening tip and kick off, we’d be standing, cheering and getting under the skin of opposing players.

That’s what being a student is all about. We showed up not because we had to, it was because we wanted to.

I know there are a lot of students in this area who feel the same way. That’s the case for Weirton Madonna students right now.

It’s an exciting time to be a Blue Don as the girls basketball team is heading to the Class A state tournament. The student body has already been practicing to pack the Charleston Civic Center by showing up in droves at the Madonna sectional games at Brooke and the regional championship at the Dube Dome.

That support hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players.

“It’s such an awesome feeling for my team and I to have our student section there supporting us during (the Wheeling Central) game because they made such a huge difference for the momentum of the game. They’re definitely the best student section in the state.”

Well, the Blue Dons can prove that on Thursday night against St. Marys.

Though a team doesn’t need to be in a playoff game for it to garner support.

I’ve covered hundreds of prep games in my six-year, post-college career. Two student sections going at it is almost as entertaining as the game, itself.

Around here, it doesn’t get much more creative than the “Big Blue Zone” at Catholic Central. Crusaders students come up with some cool themes and homemade signs that pump themselves up, as well as the players.

At an Indian Creek game this season, I saw some pretty fierce dance moves by students on the stage.

Brooke students booed a standout Wheeling Park player whenever he touched the ball during their game at home two weeks ago. That tactic is reminiscent of the Mountaineer Maniacs at West Virginia and their “bum of the game” who gets the same treatment during games at the WVU Coliseum.

But the best showing by a student section in the 2015-16 season was by the aforementioned Panthers.

BLHS students came out in droves to Ohio University Eastern to cheer on their girls team at the OVAC title game against Union Local. The Panthers may have lost on the court, but they won in the stands. Instead of coming up with a specific theme, the student section declared it “every theme night.”

There were kids dressed up like items of food, superheroes and even SpongeBob Squarepants.

With nearly 100 students in the stands at OUE, the Buckeye Local student section looked across the court at an empty set of stands where Union Local students could have been.

Some in attendance, both teenagers and adults, mocked the BLHS students. If anything, the Buckeye Local kids had the upper hand in this argument. They were the ones showing school support. They were the ones who helped provide spirit to their team.

It’s today’s students who will, hopefully, became school supporters 20, 30 and 40 years from now. Showing support, now, will only strengthen their commitment to their alma mater down the road.

High school sports are already great. They’re even greater when all of the high school becomes involved.

(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter at @thempeas)