“Let’s go East! Let’s go East! Let’s go East!”
“Let’s go West! Let’s go West! Let’s go West!”
During any given basketball game in Jessamine County, the student sections easily hold 100 students — but during the annual East Jessamine vs. West Jessamine games, student sections stretch from goal to goal and from bench to rafters.
There’s a 32-minute battle between a crowd trying to control the opposing team and a team trying to control the opposing crowd — the winner of that battle likely wins the war that is the game.
“I think the (impact of the crowd) can be huge,” West Jessamine coach Damon Kelley said. “I thought last year the first game we played over at East, we were so young and unexperienced at the varsity level, it was really the first time my kids had played in that type of environment. I thought that as East got rolling and their students were into it, it really affected our guys and they were completely distracted by everything that was happening outside the floor.”
What’s happening outside the floor can range from the wacky and wild (fans in ghillie suits used for hunting), chants, signage, body painting and crowd-surfing.
“There are a lot of distractions when the gym is packed: all the people are standing on the staircases; there are 300, 400, 500 students in each student section,” Kelley said. “It can pump you up; it can get you motivated to play harder. But it can also be a distraction if you’re not mature enough and not mentally tough enough to keep your focus on the floor.”
East Jessamine coach Chris O’Bryan agreed that the crowds can be a source of strength and a source of frustration.
“They can definitely help motivate you; there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “When your crowd is there and as big as either of them will be, it can help you when your crowd is into it and pushing you along. At the same time, when things aren’t going your way and their crowd is all over you, it can definitely emotionally have an effect on your mental stability and how well you focus down the stretch.”
O’Bryan said that the team that can stay focused through the first four or five minutes has a huge advantage.
While the argument over which school has the better student section will always be at loggerheads, it doesn’t keep them from always trying to state their case and one-up each other.
“As the ‘Colt Crazies,’ we don’t just get excited for the East game. We have people like Carson Ball and Jarred Jones, that paint up for every home game and lose their voices weekly,” West junior Carter Hahn said. “Although we get excited for every game, the East game is a completely different atmosphere because they’re our cross-town rivals. We have classes at JCTC with these kids; we’ve grown up around the county with them — bragging rights are crucial.”
Hahn said that he and some of his classmates got to the game Friday two hours early so that they could spell out “Colts” on their chests.
Hahn said early Monday morning his voice still had not returned due to all the yelling.
“There is a reason why we call ourselves ‘Crazies,’ because we get insane when it comes to basketball. Our student section filled out the entire left side of the gym and never stopped yelling the whole game,” he said. “I couldn’t hear one chant that the East student section even said due to the sheer volume on our side ... The ‘Colt Crazies’ are the better student section. No question.”
Orion Howard, a senior on the other side of the floor for East Jessamine, is often seen in the front row of any Jaguars’ student section.
“As a student of East Jessamine High School and one of the six leaders of our student section, we take pride in creating the biggest home-court advantage that we can for our sports teams,” he said. “Whenever we can get the support from all our students, alongside our unmatchable creativity, we make a great environment for everyone that comes to the game.”
East has taken to having themes for each home, Howard said, involving “different colors, costumes, and a new painted word on the chest of our students.
East also has designated chants for certain times of the game and for every player when they score.
“Our student section believes that they give off a vibe that flows through the building, pumping up the crowd and players throughout the night,” Howard said. “East Jessamine has started a tradition the past few years by trying to have the most feared student section in the region, and as seniors, we feel obligated to keep it going and build it up for years to come.”
As both coaches pointed out, it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside the lines; it’s what the players inside the lines do that will ultimately win the game.
“The team that wins is the team that is able to block out everything else around them and just focus on the game itself,” Kelley said.