Capacity Crowd Makes New Castle Shine

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Basketball, High School Baseball, High School Basketball, Marc Viquez, News

This past Friday night there were two basketball games taking place at the largest basketball gym on earth and depending on reports, there were around 9,000 people in attendance for both games. The New Castle Fieldhouse was home to sectional games that featured four teams that created an ideal situation and quickly reminded everyone in attendance what the term Hoosier Hysteria means.

There are close to 160 basketball gyms in Indiana that seat at least 3,000 or more, many of them would easily rank as the largest in the other 49 states with the exception of only a few. The Fieldhouse was built in 1959 and has featured its share of capacity crowds in its 60 years. The basketball cathedral holds 9,34 people, the same as Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University.

“Obviously, that type of atmosphere doesn’t happen in many places, even here in Indiana,” said Delta coach Mark Detweiler. “It really is hard to describe this to someone outside of Indiana, because basketball in Indiana is just different.  What you saw at New Castle was really like it used to be in the 1980s and ’90s. There is no doubt what Indiana has is different from other parts of the country.”

During the regular season, the mammoth gym is not full like it used to be a few decades ago; leading up the Friday night game there was a lot of excitement in the air as the anticipation of a sell-out increase rapidly leading up to the games on Friday night. The four games scheduled included the hometown New Castle Trojans against Hamilton Heights Huskies followed by the nightcap featuring the undefeated Delta Eagles against the Lucas Brown lead Blackburn Bears.

“I haven’t seen this much excitement since Steve Alford,” said one fan who found a parking spot, along with me, close to the gym’s main entrance. Alford was Mr. Basketball at New Castle who graduated in 1983 and would lead Indiana to an NCAA championship four-years later.

Many others found spots on the residential neighborhood streets that border the high school campus. Once fans entered the doorway of the fieldhouse, two lines formed with those who had tickets and others who had to wait to purchase them at the box office-$6 for the one game and $10 for all three games that weekend. 

You didn’t have to be alumni from any one of these schools to appreciate the atmosphere that was taken place. There are 28 rows of hardwood permanent seating at the fieldhouse and every inch of the seat was filled. Fans stood on top of the main Concourse two to three rows deep to get a view of the parquet floor down below.

“I know people might be like, ‘Man there was 10,000 people there,’ and it might look like there is,” New Castle athletic director Shane Osting told the Muncie Star Journal. “But when it’s all said and done, there really wasn’t.”

The lines at the three concession stands were busy tonight selling nachos, hot dogs, and sodas. There was standalone Dippin Dots cart on the main concourse near the multiple photos of past champions and school history.

New Castle went up against the Hamilton Heights for the 6 o’clock matchup and the game was back and forth before the Huskies looked to put the game away late in the 4th period. The state’s second-leading scorer Luke Bumbalough looked to bring a second straight sectional championship to town. Things were looking bleak for the hometown Trojans, but it’s scrappy play squeaked out a 55-52 victory to the delighted crowd sporting the school colors of green and white.

Despite the Trojans playing on its home court, there were representatives from all schools and the Hamilton Heights fans and student section made sure they would not be drawn out throughout the game. That is what made this night special, it had all the pomp and circumstance of a college basketball crowd and it was hard to not have your heart racing as the game went down to the final seconds.

Delta and Blackford tipped off at 8 pm for the second game and by this time there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. The exhausted Trojan fans stayed behind to most likely see the state’s leading scorer Brown, but Delta is definitely must-see basketball riding high with an unblemished record. Early on a few three-pointers from NBA distance from Brown brought cheers from the Bears student section, but Delta took control and led by double-digits by the end of the half.

Delta has hosted a few sell-out games at their home gym that seats 4,800, but never close to the amount at the fieldhouse. Detweiler thinks it might have been 2002 since the Eagles took the court with such a crowd surrounding it.

“I think once the games got started, I thought our guys really settled down and played well. I think leading up to the game, there were some nerves, because of all the talk about the crowds.”

Following the team is the Delta Blue Crew–one of the most energetic student section in the state; they cheer after every score, turnover, and anything else the frenzied group wants to celebrate. One member does push-ups to match the number of points scored after the first half and definitely embrace the term “Hoosier Hysteria” as they take their show to Marion this weekend to the Bill Green Arena.

“A lot of it is tradition and parents passing the love of the game, and their local team, down to their kids,” said Steve Isaacs, freshman coach for the Logansport High School Berries who also does the color commentary for varsity games. “There are still many fans that have been traveling around the state since the days of single-class basketball, not just watching their team but also many others.”

There were other gyms that staged games in front of packed houses this weekend in Seymour, Loogootee, and North Davies, each of them providing atmospheres that would be the envy of other states at so many different venues.

“Fans of my hometown team drive over two hours to regular season some nights just to support their team. There’s no better environment than a great Indiana High School Basketball game, I always say it’s the best deal in entertainment”, added Isaacs.

Paid attendance was announced at 6,259 according to the New Castle athletic department for both games that included the three-game pass, which the school sold 2,800 passes. In order to get to 9,325 fans in the building, they would need to seat 12-18 inches apart and also include roll-out bleachers on the main concourse in each corner Osting told the Star Press. Still, it was one of the highest attendant sectionals in more than two years and left many with perhaps a new appreciation of the game.

“I asked my son what professional player he wants to be when he grows up and he said he wants to be Luke Bumbalough”, expressed one mother leaving the building with me near the end of the Delta-Blackford game. “Don’t you have to love Indiana High School basketball?” 

Indeed I do.

  

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