Spending an evening inside 'The Cage' at Chaminade
It's 30 minutes to tipoff and The Cage, most of them anyways, are dressed in orange are seated neatly on the bleachers inside the Uribe Sports Center on the Chaminade campus.
Once in The Cage, you have to get off your feet when you can because, for the next 32 minutes of game action, they will be standing and cheering on the home team.
Alemany is in town. A tough team that's already captured the Mission League title. It's Senior Night at Chaminade, and The Cage is shorthanded with some of its senior members off on a retreat.
The leaders of The Cage, who include seniors Shawn Goldman, Joey Catania and Jono Blattner, are still determined to get the group to perform to its potential. After all, The Cage is largely known as the most raucous student section in the Southern Section.
"It's the greatest thing in the world," member of The Cage Alec Neimand said. "It's a true sixth man.
Added JV basketball player and member of The Cage, Mike Silver: "I'm in The Cage within 30 seconds of my coach making the (postgame) speech."
Just over 20 minutes until game time and the Senior Night festivities commence. The Eagles seniors are introduced, and The Cage has a chant for each one with Montana-bound Michael Oguine being the last senior to be announced.
"MVP! MVP! MVP!" The Cage chants at the talented combo guard.
It's almost gametime.
The energy is up from the opening tip. Guards Jordan Ogundiran of Chaminade and Shacquille Dawkins of Alemany are locked in a shootout, trading shots from beyond the arc.
Then Ogundiran answers.
"1,2,3 --three more!" The Cage chants after Ogundiran burries a three-point jumper.
The Chaminade point guard later has a crossover in transition that draws "ohhhs and ahhhs" from the crowd and gets The Cage in an uproar.
"That was so dirty," one member of The Cage says while doing a complete 360-degree turn mimicking the Alemany defender. "That was ridiculous."
Later in the first half, Oguine turns the ball over. Alemany has a breakaway, but Oguine hustles to get to the defensive end and from behind blocks what appeared to be an easy two for the Warriors.
The Cage nearly spills onto the floor in amazement of the sensational defensive effort. The senior leaders do their best to hold everyone back.
It's a frenzy. The Cage is loud and, although less than full strength, as energetic as ever.
But there wouldn't be much to cheer for as the half winds down.
Alemany started the quarter on a 7-0 run. Chaminade didn't score in the quarter until Ogundiran hit a pair of free throws with just under three minutes left in the half.
Ogundiran has 14 of the Eagles 21 first half points but they trail by 12 at halftime.
As the teams head into their respective locker rooms to regroup, The Cage takes a rest as well. As soon as the first half buzzer sounds, each member falls in their seat. Some scattered to the snack bar for refreshments.
Midway through the half, the group begins to serande one of its members with the The Cage's rendition of "Happy Birthday."
Basketball, birthdays, they have it all covered, seemingly, leaving no stone unturned.
As the second half gets underway, Oguine begins to heat up with a couple of quick buckets. Despite making the defensive play of the game in the first half he was held scoreless in the first 16 minutes.
In addition to Oguine's exploits, Bar Milo also gets a layup.
"The Uuuuu," The Cage chants with each member making its thumbs touch with palms facing forward to make a "U" in homage to the forward who's headed to the University of Miami as an offensive lineman.
The 12-point lead is cut to eight with 4:20 left in the third. The Cage seems to be growing louder with each point that draws closer to the Warriors.
But then Alemany goes on another run in an attempt to suck the life out of the building.
They outscore Chaminade 13-4 over the next 2:18 to go up by 17.
Daron Henson then hit a three to beat the third quarter buzzer to put Alemany up 58-36.
The home crowd is glum, but The Cage is still on its feet.
After Chaminade scores the first basket of the final quarter, the senior leaders start a moshpit, perhaps, to keep themselves entertained.
Storming the court is reserved for wins and doesn't appear to be in the cards for this night. Still, the fourth quarter will be about the seniors.
It is, of course, Senior Night.
Chaminade has its highest scoring quarter of the night but not enough to make a dent into the Alemany lead.
As the clock winds down on a 71-52 Alemany win, The Cage shows its appreciation for the seniors who could be playing in their final game inside the Uribe Sports Center.
"Thank you seniors!" Blattner, Cantania, Goldman and the legion of orange clad members of The Cage chant. "Thank you seniors!"
In a way, it was Senior Night for them too so they cheered, they led, they hoped their team would find a way to come out on the winning side of things.
"It's tough but you realize how hard the guys are playing out there and you want to cheer just as hard as they're playing," Blattner said.
Blattner and his comrades are hopeful for a home playoff game.
Come the postseason, The Cage will be at full strength.