ALBANY, N.Y.—It’s no secret at Manhattan College—especially if you live in Lee Hall—just how loud The Sixth Borough can be inside Draddy Gymnasium.
Draddy has always been just small enough that the home crowd can make a visiting team feel overwhelmed, often giving the Jaspers a powerful home court advantage.
However, on March 9 as the Jaspers battled The Iona Gaels in the MAAC conference championship at the Times Union Center, which holds 15,500 more people than Draddy, it was pretty clear that The Sixth Borough can travel.
“I think we always drown out the opposing side,” junior Rachel Harrison said. “But in this game everyone is here to cheer on the boys, even the players and standing up and getting people to cheer them on.”
Harrison attended all three games last weekend and said she was proud to be a part of the historic win, which gave the Jaspers back-to-back MAAC titles.
“Being from a small school you want to make your name known,” she said. “Coming here, supporting [the Jaspers] is a great feeling making Manhattan College known.”
The electricity in the air was tangible. Even though the building was only half full, the combined power of The Sixth Borough and the Pep Band easily overpowered Iona’s student section.
The crowd was ready to erupt from start to finish.
Every field goal, foul and turnover the Jaspers earned was met with intense response from The Sixth Borough and band. The Iona student section, which had done its best to make its presence known for the duration of the tournament, was drowned out by Jasper Nation.
The Jaspers, in their away uniforms and a full two-hours drive from their home court, took advantage of their apparent home-court crowd, taking care to egg on the crowd when they could.
After a double technical in the first half that allowed junior Shane Richards to knock down two free throws, the Jaspers’ wing player put up his hands in the shape of a triangle towards his classmates, giving them something else to clap at.
MC students came prepared to rattle the rafters of a gym that holds more people than Manhattan holds undergraduates. Clad in gear that ranged from plain Manhattan College sweaters to shirts commemorating last year’s trip to the N.C.A.A. tournament, the fans were out in full force and full Jasper style.
Perhaps the most bizarre outfit, though, was that of freshman Ian Chalmers, who wore an oversized green head and Hulk gloves.
“One of the upperclassmen told me it was at the 2003-2004 and last year’s tournament and I thought I was cool so I wanted to put it on,” he said.
Chalmers attended three other home games this season and said he felt honored, as a Bronx native, to have been a part of the evening.
“Growing up, I always knew Iona and Manhattan,” Chalmers said. “Manhattan College is home now and I love it.”
As the game wore on, and Manhattan continued to display its dominance, the Iona’s section seemed to fall further out of earshot; meanwhile, The Sixth Borough let everyone know of its presence.
“We have a lot of people here today,” Chalmers said. “It looks like we have a good effect on the game.”
Sophomore Shaquille Cole-Cephus, a regular attendee at every Jasper home game, brought a sign that told every opponent the Jaspers faced exactly who had arrived. It read, “Albany, the champs have arrived!”
And arrive they did.
“It means a lot to the players, especially because of the support we’ve given them over the last two or three years,” he said. “Especially after all that has happened since last year.”
When Head Coach Steve Masiello was in the process of securing a new job at the University of South Florida, it was later discovered that he lost the offer because of his failure to complete he bachelor’s degree.
In the time immediately after, Masiello received intense criticism for his actions, but was ultimately welcomed back to the school upon the condition that he complete his degree.
As he led the Jaspers to their second consecutive MAAC championship, though, no one would have guessed that some students had booed him early in the season. The crowd chanted his name as the clock wound down, letting him know that he won back their hearts and their respect.
Masiello would later thank The Sixth Borough for their support all season long.
Arguably, the most important—but certainly most audible—section of The Sixth Borough is the Manhattan College Pep Band, which also travelled to Albany for the tournament.
The band created as much noise as possible, from the start of the trip to the very end. As soon as they mounted the bus at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, they were in the zone, knowing almost from the start that the Jaspers would face their biggest in-conference rivals in the championship, for the second year in a row.
They played songs at every timeout, all without any sheet music in front of them, and also heckled opponents all game long.
Senior Mitchell Potempa is the band’s lead trombonist and de facto head heckler.
“Most of the time it’s just stuff that comes to my head,” he said. “I love basketball and I love yelling stuff.”
As a senior, Potempa said he felt as though the tournament was his last go-around, much like the team’s seniors.
“I’ve been here for four years and every year that we play, the team deserves every ounce of passion that I have,” Mitchell said, “you deserve a fan base that’s behind a team that puts that kind of energy on the floor.”
While it may have been Potempa’s last MAAC tournament, with a Jasper victory he still has the chance to support his team once more.
The team is faced to enter the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. You can bet that no matter where they play, The Sixth Borough will be behind them.