By Ray Hamill — The Weed Cougars will have to battle more than just the St. Bernard’s boys in Thursday night’s NorCal Division-VI basketball championship game.
Once again, a large crowd of St. Bernard’s fans is expected to make the trip for the big showdown, and once again their presence is expected to make a difference.
Fondly referred to as “The Crusaders Crazies,” the SB fans are quickly earning a reputation as a noisy band of traveling supporters after also showing up in large numbers for Saturday’s semifinal game at Redding Christian.
And boys head coach Issac Gildea knows better than anyone how much that helps his players.
“When you have fans there, you create an environment that is conducive to winning,” said Gildea, who estimated that the St. Bernard’s fans outnumbered the home faithful at Redding. “Basketball is a game of momentum, and when you start to get momentum you feel the energy of the crowd, and it can really give you a lift.”
Gildea credited “The Crusaders Crazies” with helping inspire his team’s big comeback at Redding, when the SB boys rallied from an 11-point deficit to score the go-ahead basket in the final minute.
And those fans will be on hand again at Weed, with two traveling buses already reserved to accommodate 52 students, and a third bus likely to follow with a waiting list of 16 students already signed up.
Gildea, who has led the team to a NorCal decider in his first full season in charge, believes you need three things for success — a supportive and creative administration, students willing to go to games, and a team good enough that students want to come and watch.
And St. Bernard’s would appear to have all three right now.
“What a creative school we have,” the coach said.