The gym at Lincolnton High School has gotten louder during the 2011-2012 basketball season than it has been in the past.
Much of the excitement is a result of The Black Hole, Lincolntonâ€™s enthusiastic student section, formed by junior Brett Thompson and a group of classmates to show their gratitude to the teams.
â€œA group of friends and I noticed that we have one of the best basketball teams in the conference, and nobody was coming to the games,â€ Thompson said.
â€œWe felt that, having such a good team, getting people to go to the games and cheering for the team would be a way to show them that we recognize what theyâ€™re doing on the court and that we appreciate it.â€
Members of the student section can be recognized by their â€œBlack Holeâ€ t-shirts, which are sold for $15 at every Lincolnton home game.
Thompson said the profits from the shirts are donated to the Jimmy V. Foundation for Cancer Research. The group has already raised $456 through shirt sales and donations, nearly halfway to its $1,000 goal.
Since the formation of the official student section in December, the Wolves have been on a hot streak.
Lincolnton defeated North Lincoln 69-46 on December 16, the first game The Black Hole attended. Since then, the Wolves have won seven straight games and hope to add another today at home against Lake Norman Charter.
â€œI think it has a major impact on how the game goes,â€ Thompson said.
â€œThe players admit that it gives them an adrenaline boost. You canâ€™t prove it, but the noise level in the gym and the way the players feed off of it, I think thereâ€™s a big connection between us and them.â€
Thompson said that in seasons past, student fan support for Lincolnton basketball pales in comparison to the atmosphere this yearâ€™s group has created.
â€œWe had a section where students would sit, but there would be no cheering,â€ he said.
â€œMost people had their backs turned to the team, and I really felt like that was disrespectful to the players. The only games where people would get into it would be, for instance, when we played Cherryville last year. We got really excited about those games, but other than those there was complete silence. It was almost embarrassing to be there. You would go there to talk to the friends, ignore the game and clap at the end and then go home.â€
Luckily, for both the fans and the players, basketball games as social outings are no longer the case.
â€œItâ€™s a legitimate student section now, we have students standing up and cheering at every game,â€ Thompson said. â€œThe players point to us during the games and acknowledge that weâ€™re making noise for them and they give us love back.â€
The student section was also welcomed by Lincolntonâ€™s administration. Students wearing their Black Hole t-shirts are admitted to home games at a reduced ticket price.
â€œItâ€™s great for students to get involved in the games like this,â€ Lincolnton athletic director Scott Cloninger said.
â€œI think itâ€™s a win-win situation; our fans feed off of them and itâ€™s great for the athletes, that they see thereâ€™s so much student involvement. Our students are acting with a lot of class and being very sportsmanlike in their cheers, and weâ€™re very excited about the way theyâ€™re acting as young people.â€