Fans hold images of Kansas State head coach Frank Martin, left and Jacob Pullen in the second half of an NCAA West Regional semifinal college basketball game against Xavier in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) | Buy Journal Photos

Wildcat Fever

By DAVID CLOUSTON Salina Journal

If you struggled at work Friday to stave off the craving for an afternoon nap and you were wearing purple — and a smile — there were likely plenty of basketball fans close by who stayed up Thursday to watch Kansas State outlast Xavier who were sharing your pain and joy.

Salinan Ryan Kolzow thought Kansas State’s 101 to 96 double-overtime victory might have been the most exciting college basketball game he’s ever watched. Period.

“I’m probably not going to win any parenting awards,” Kolzow said Friday. “I have a kindergartner who had school today who stayed up with me until 11:30 p.m. He stayed up the whole game.”

It was that kind of a back-and-forth, crazy see-saw battle that captivated both casual and rabid fans of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. A battle that didn’t end until K-State guard Denis Clemente hit two free throws with 11.6 seconds to play, and time expired.

The superstitious faithful who cheered on the ‘Cats with every talisman and lucky ritual are hoping to have the same luck when K-State takes on Butler at 3:30 p.m. today to advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

The same T-shirt

To give K-State a winning edge, Kolzow has worn the same T-shirt for games for about the past six years.

“A buddy of mine started a company in Kansas City that was a meal delivery service. He made a bunch of K-State shirts and handed them out to people for advertising,” said Kolzow, who works as associate vice president for United Capital Management of Kansas, 104 E. Iron. He’s a 1999 K-State graduate.

Kolzow said a female office co-worker wears the same outfit before every K-State game to bring the team luck.

Some Salina offices Friday celebrated the ‘Cats’ victory with a little fervor. Front office staff at the Central Kansas District Office of Kansas State Research and Extension played a recording of the K-State fight song. The Powercat emblems in the office were also more prominently displayed.

Carl Garten, director of the office, said he was out of bed, standing and jumping with excitement about the middle of the first overtime during the game.

“It was definitely intense to go into the second overtime, that’s for sure,” Garten said. “The great thing was it didn’t come down to a final last-second shot that we had to make to win the thing. It was unbelievable.”

Garten doesn’t have any game-time superstitions or rituals, he said. That’s not the case for some in Stuart Hieger’s family.

Hieger, a 1992 K-State grad, said his mom won’t watch televised ‘Cat games because she thinks she jinxes them.

“She says, ‘Every time I watch them, the other team comes back,’ ” Hieger said.

Hieger said his brother-in-law, Terry Bieberly, who played on K-State’s team, can’t bear to watch them play on TV but he listens to the radio broadcasts.

Hieger, a financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors, 118 W. Iron, shares an office with both passionate fans of the Wildcats and the University of Kansas Jayhawks. The good-natured ribbing goes back and forth among the teams’ fans, he said.

Students at the K-State at Salina campus Friday were also shaking off the cobwebs of a late night and early morning, as they relished in the team’s victory.

The game kept Justin Scott, a senior from Bennington, on the edge of his seat the whole time, he said.

“A little bit,” he said, asked if he was hoarse by the end of the game. “It got a little bit rowdy those two overtimes.”

Brycen Scholz, an Atchison freshman, said he “was really scared when I was watching (guard Jordan) Crawford make those threes. It was ridiculous.”

“I thought K-State was going to (be beaten) … but then (Jacob) Pullen started pulling through on the threes,” he said.

Alexander Allison, a Washington, D.C., freshman, said he felt the same fear, watching the seconds tick away on the court.

“I was happy they won. It was a nice night,” Allison said, smiling.

Scholz said he heard an ESPN announcer say it was one of the best games of the tournament so far.

“It was,” he said.

n Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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