By Leila Shearon, Staff Writer
For most college students, Christmas break is a month-long vacation from school that features sleeping, partying and enjoying family and friends. However, for the basketball players and cheerleaders, Christmas break meant more time to focus on drills, practice and competitions.
Over the break, the men’s and women’s team played nine home games, with the cheerleaders on the sidelines for most of them. The Valley of Doom was about half-full for most games, with attendance averaging around 500 people per game during the break; but the missing half was the student body. Their absence was noted by the players.
“When you have four players that play 40 minutes every game,” said Steve Viterbo, a freshman guard from Melbourne. “You really need that extra boost the Young Harris students give us.”
Coaches also noticed the lack of noise, especially from the YHC pep band Purple Rain. Brenda Paul, head women’s coach, commented that she and her squad missed pep music during warm-ups and games.
“They are the best in the land,” Paul said.
Purple Rain is known for their renditions of popular music, such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
Other people noticed the absence of colorful fans, such as sophomore Zach Carlisle. Carlisle is known for his Australian flag shorts, flag and hat supporting the “Aussies” that play for Young Harris, including Steve Viterbo, Matt Preston and Breanna Gleeson.
“It’s awesome. He really gets into it,” said Preston.
The cheerleaders also seemed to be effected by the lack of overly zealous fans as well. Jeree Dukes a cheerleader and music major expressed that “the students make our jobs easier.”
The support that was present came from the community and faculty. The crowds were fairly large yet the noise and cheering was minimal. The cheerleaders spoke on the lack of participation they had from the crowd. The crowd seemed lifeless despite several very thrilling games.
“It was like pulling teeth at times to get them to stand and cheer with the cheerleaders. The only hope for the team as far as getting pumped and spirited was from the cheerleaders,” stated Marissa Thomas, a cheerleader from Brunswick.
One of the few students to attend all of the games over the break was Nicole Conrad. Students Marianne Smith and Nathan Hughes also attended a few competitions.
“Energy was definitely the biggest difference. Having a student section cheering on and supporting our teams makes a big impact. The atmosphere of the gym over break was completely different than if the gym was filled with our student body. It felt pretty empty,” said Conrad.
The first two games after the break with the students back ended in victory for the women’s team. The basketball teams and cheerleaders hope to never experience such a lack of Mountain Lions fans roaring in the Valley of Doom again in this season and the future seasons to come.
Information from wire reports
Young Harris – The Young Harris College women’s basketball team took its first lead with two minutes remaining and didn’t look back as the Mountain Lions rallied from a 21-point, first-half deficit to beat Truett McConnell, 58-50, on Monday afternoon at the YHC Basketball Arena.
“They played with no quit and played with pride the whole time,” Young Harris head coach Brenda Paul said. “Everyone on the team played as hard as they could. That is definitely a side of Young Harris Mountain Lion pride.”
Breanna Gleeson scored 13 of her team-high 15 points in the second half and was 6-for-15 from the floor, including knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to key a Young Harris run. LaDondra Johnson recorded a double-double, 14 points and 14 rebounds – nine coming on the offensive end and Lauren Smith added 12 points, eight rebounds and dished out a team-high four assists as the Mountain Lions (6-9) were 23-of-68 shooting for 34 percent.
Young Harris trailed, 34-13, at the break after struggling to find anything offensively as the Mountain Lions were 6-for-33 from the floor for 18 percent. The Mountain Lions turned that around in the second half by shooting 49 percent and limiting the Lady Bears (5-13) to just 15 percent.
The Mountain Lions used a 27-13 run to start the second half and cut the deficit to 47-40 after a Smith layup with 5:20 left. A 3-pointer by Willani Love extended the Truett McConnell lead to 50-40 with 4:57 remaining.
However, the final five minutes was dominated by Young Harris as the Mountain Lions closed out the game out with an 18-0 run to earn the come-from-behind victory.
Love paced the Lady Bears with 15 points, while Symone Hampton and Jasmine Butler recorded 12 and 10, respectively. Despite shooting 54 percent in the first half, Truett McConnell was 18-of-52 (35 percent) from the floor.
The Mountain Lions return to action 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26 in Rome, Ga., against Berry College.