Santa Claus, a cowboy and a giant banana walk into Draddy Gymnasium.
What sounds like the opening to a bad joke is just a handful of the cast of characters who assembled last Friday night to cheer on the Manhattan Jaspers against MAAC rival Iona Gaels. These attention grabbing costumes stood out among a sea of Jasper green as The Sixth Borough packed the bleachers to support the team.
The home court battle against Iona is always the game of the season to attend. It promises passionate basketball and the largest annual display of school spirit. This year certainly proved to be no exception.
“The Sixth Borough had a ton of energy,” junior Amanda Butler said. “There were lots of familiar faces in the crowd cheering on the team. Plus, it awesome being right beneath the basket and getting on TV.”
With 10:00 p.m. tipoff to accommodate the ESPNU broadcast, there was plenty of time for Jasper fans to put on their war paint and get extra spirited after their Friday classes ended.
The only thing that could put a damper on the crowd’s energy in the lead-up to the game was the bitter cold. The low temperatures and chilly winds kept away the usual lines of fans that wait for the doors to open to get a prime spot in the stands.
With over a half-hour left of warm-ups before the opening jump, The Sixth Borough was already packed and rocking with enthusiasm.
“The energy of The Sixth Borough was insane,” freshman Ian Godridge said. “I’ve never been to a game where a fan section was so loud and upbeat. It was a great experience.”
As the players finished stretching and practicing shots, the electric crowd burst out into familiar chants of “Let’s Go Jaspers” and “Jasper Nation.” A small but boisterous contingent of Iona students made the trip down from New Rochelle to serve as their competition. Although the two warring groups traded taunts throughout the game, the fans in maroon were simply outnumbered.
Every point made by the Jaspers was a reason for exultation. Every foul called against the team in white was a cause for jeers. And every missed scoring opportunity seemed to be a catastrophe.
While Iona jumped out to an early lead behind clutch three-point shooting, Manhattan came clawing back with the roaring Sixth Borough behind it.
At times when the game looked bleak for Manhattan, the cheering section was boosted by the always lively Jasper Pep Band.
“The pep band definitely helped rile up the crowd with their new hits,” Butler said. “Their version of ‘Uptown Funk’ was great.”
In what has become tradition for the two teams over the last few years, the game proved to be another up-tempo drama featuring momentum shifts every few plays.
With the score tied at 65 and 45.3 seconds left on the clock, the atmosphere in the stands reached a whole new level of intensity.
Head coach Steve Masiello and the Jasper bench turned to hype up the green-clad crowd, urging them to finish strong as the team made its own final push.
Alas, a three pointer from Jasper freshman Zane Waterman fell short as the final seconds on the clock ticked away. The Gaels avoided overtime and claimed the victory 70-67.
With raspy throats and sore hands, The Sixth Borough emptied out of the gym and into the late night, taking solace in one of the most time-honored adages of sports history: There’s always next year.