SANTA CRUZ — It was about 4 p.m. Sunday when I was walking in the downtown area. It was overcast, and the rain had subsided for just a moment.
A man with a rough beard and salt-and-pepper hair walked beside me with his grocery bag and smiled.
“You think we are going to win tonight?” the man asked.
“I think they have a good shot,” I told the stranger. “They’re a good team, but they’re facing another good team.”
Wait a minute.
The last time I heard that question and provided that answer, it was August, and I was in San Francisco walking near King Street ready to watch the San Francisco Giants play a regular-season game at AT&T Park.
You only hear that type of question in a town that has a professional sports team.
Well, welcome to Santa Cruz, finally home to a professional team. Things were definitely different in this town, at least on Sunday, as the Santa Cruz Warriors played their first home game.
When the Warriors jogged onto the court for warmups, the place erupted. I probably said to myself, “Wow, this is awesome,” about 500 times on Sunday night. Everything about Sunday night reminded me why I love watching professional sports live.
I don’t live in Santa Cruz, and I’m not even a native of the county. But I am so proud of everyone that did everything they could to make Sunday’s game a reality. There were definitely haters that tried their best to derail the plans. But if they were talking on Sunday, their voices were drowned out by the thousands who packed Kaiser Permanente Arena and cheered on the Warriors.
As for the game, it was awesome as well. The Warriors, 93-85 winners, controlled the pace early on before Bakersfield came back to tie it several times in the first half.
Jeremy Tyler put in a massive dunk in the first half, bringing the crowd back into a frenzy after they were doing their best “Y-M-C-A” interpretation. The crowd did all right on their attempt. Bakersfield rallied and had a chance to take the lead, but the Warriors’ defense came through.
Travis Leslie buried a massive 3-pointer with 3:47 to go to give the Warriors a 49-44 advantage. And then Cameron Jones got the crowd into a frenzy with a fast-break dunk.
It’s those moments that the children and their parents won’t forget.
Sure, there were some flubs, like the shot clock, and the slippery floor that nearly consumed Stefhon Hannah in the first 10 seconds of the game.
Even coach Nate Bjorkgren noticed the first-game mishaps.
“I’ve seen a lot of first games in the D-League,” he said. “Everyone’s scrambling, and you can feel that scramble. It’s not new to us.”
It’s OK. Everyone gets a pass for Sunday night. It’s one game. All that will be remembered are the amazing dunks, the corner threes, and the loud crowd.
Let’s hope the next 23 home games this season are as memorable.
Glenn Cravens is the sports editor of the Register-Pajaronian. For the complete article see the 12-25-2012 issue.
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