I knew the Bradley men were going to win the MVC Championship game in the second half. There was 5:10 left of the game clock, and the crowd was chanting “B-U,” causing the court to shake beneath me. Bradley was up by seven, and the ball was knocked out of bounds.
The referee thrust his arms in my direction to signify a change of possession, and the crowd erupted into cheers.
That sound was deafening.
Admittedly, I had been more than a little queasy during most of the game. Valpo managed to pull ahead just before the half, and I felt like this game might be the last of my college career.
Although I’d like to say that I knew we’d win the whole time, there were a solid 22 minutes where it was anyone’s game.
We were hungry, though, and not just the team.
You could tell that our crowd wanted to dance again. Our fan section wanted to dance again. Our cheerleaders wanted to dance again. And, of course, the Bravettes wanted to dance again.
During most of the game, I found it hard to continue cheering when Valpo had the ball. I held my breath with anticipation as they aimed at the rim. Every shot that Valpo missed sent me jumping with excitement, and one fan even told me that they felt like my feet “were rarely on the floor.”
There are very few times in life where you experience true community, and March 6 was one of them. In the last five minutes of the game, our crowd became a blur of red, truly a “red sea.”
We weren’t individuals. We were the Bradley fans, and we knew that we were going to win.
A few other memories stick out from the game. Chanting MVP as Darell Brown stepped up to the free throw line for the last time is definitely something I’ll remember for a long while. Another is being pulled up onto the stage by Coach Wardle. Very few DI coaches would take the time to let the cheerleaders and dance team relish that win with the rest of the basketball team, but Coach Wardle did. And that speaks volumes to his character.
Standing on that stage was surreal, a once in a lifetime experience that not many other cheerleaders will get to know.
Unfortunately, our season did end there. It’s disheartening seeing the boys put so much effort in just to miss out on going to the NCAA Tournament. Though I know it’s for the best, I do mourn their loss. I’m also saddened for the senior cheerleaders. They put in a lot of effort to get to where they are today, and now none of them will have the opportunity to cheer at college basketball’s biggest tournament for the second time.
Still, I leave this season with a lot of pride for both the cheer and basketball team. At the end of the day, we ended with the biggest win we could’ve asked for, and Bradley ended the season as champions.