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Shocker fans stunned at Final Four loss to Louisville

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 6, 2013, at 9:13 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, at 2:05 p.m.

— They sat in their seats, perfectly still. They couldn’t move.

For many Shocker fans in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, it was because they had just witnessed the end of their team’s historic run to the Final Four as Louisville beat Wichita State 72-68 in the final minutes of the national semifinal game.

The fans needed a moment to process.

For others, it was because they literally couldn’t move. Frenzied scalpers and Michigan supporters descended upon the remains of the Shocker fan section within seconds of the final buzzer, flashing cash for seats to Monday’s championship game and clogging the exit aisles.

Some didn’t get positive responses.

“How about $1,500?” WSU fan Lisa Barcher snapped, still fresh from the sting. “I’ll sell them to you for $1,500.”

The cash wavers moved along.

On Saturday, WSU fans went through the emotions they had watched fans of four other tournament teams exhibit at the Shockers’ hands during the past three weeks. But their emotions were even more intense, they said, because the stakes were higher – and because the final score was so close.

“If you’d have told me at the beginning of the season that we’d make it to the Final Four and then lose by four to the best team in the country, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Bryan Blasdel, a fan who drove to the game from Wichita with several family members.

Despite the outcome, said his brother Kyle Blasdel, it was a 15-hour, all-night road trip he didn’t regret. He got to witness Shocker history.

“It was so close,” he said. “I’m always going to remember that we were this close.”

Down in the court-side student fan section, where the air was thick with the smell of sweat and anxiety, Micah Jackman leaned over the seat in front of him during the final minutes, unable to persuade his angst-ridden buddies to leave their seats and crowd up against the rails in the front with the rest of the students.

His time at WSU was one of unprecedented basketball awesomeness, he said. NIT champs two years ago. NCAA Tournament qualifiers last year. Final Four appearance this year.

The outcome on Saturday was definitely not what he wanted, he said. But the ride is one he will never forget.

“They had a heck of a season,” he said. “We’re lifelong fans. Till we die.”

Within 10 minutes of the game’s conclusion, the students all were gone from the section – many facing the long drive back home to tests and school and reality.

Ted Ayres, WSU’s general counsel, watched from his seats above as the student section’s yellow and black was quickly replaced by the Michigan yellow and blue. These students were still smiling, though, excited for their matchup against Syracuse to begin.

Ayres also sat still in his chair, unmoving.

The season won’t soon be forgotten, he said.

The team will never be.

“I think we will all always be so strongly proud of these young men, what they accomplished and the style with which they did it,” he said. “This is part of our history now. It’s part of our culture forever.”

Reach Denise Neil at 316-268-6327 or dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

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