Mastodon fans party

At a viewing party at Buffalo Wild Wings on Maysville Road, the IPFW basketball fans watch the Mastodons go for the Summit League Tournament Championship. Interviews with Daniel Westrick and Tim Leonard.

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
IPFW students Tim Saltys, left, Cody Sengthong and Olivia Trimble cheer on the Mastodons during The Summit League championship game Tuesday at Buffalo Wild Wings on Maysville Road.

Loss doesn’t dull pride for Mastodons faithful

The man can hardly take his eyes off the TV to talk about what’s going on.

“Woooo,” he yells. “Sorry, it’s just that was a nice shot.”

His name is Tim Leonard, a 27-year-old senior at IPFW and he’s one of hundreds packed into the Buffalo Wild Wings on Maysville Road on Tuesday night, as the Mastodons men’s basketball team chased history – the chance to get into the NCAA tournament for the first time.

“I’ve been following them since I was a freshman here, so to really see them come this far over the years, it’s not just special for the team and those that came before, but also for the school overall,” says Leonard, who is majoring in English literature and English writing.

The Mastodons were in Sioux Falls, S.D., as Leonard and other Mastodons faithful, clad in blue, black and white, gather for a viewing party of The Summit League tournament championship game.

No. 1 seed North Dakota State won, 60-57, but it wasn’t decided until the waning seconds as the IPFW fans clung to the hope of making the Dance.

“This is exciting, and you can feel the electricity in the air,” Leonard says, the flash of cameras going off . “We have a 3-point lead right now and the guys are playing great and you can just feel it, you know what I mean?”

His eyes trailed off to the ESPN2 broadcast on the big screen.

“Come on,” he yells at the officials. “Sorry, but that should have been a foul.”

At a nearby table, a voice overtakes that of Leonard. It belongs to 37-year-old Daniel Westrick, who graduated in 2001 from IPFW with a degree in media and public communications.

“This is very historic tonight for all of us,” he says.

Westrick admits he doesn’t follow the Mastodons much these days.

“But when I heard they were in this game, I had to be here,” he yells.

“It’s been excellent. It’s been off the charts.”

He’s cut off by a Luis Jacobo basket, which incites the fans to bellow, “Louuuu.”

Talk soon turns to the possibility of IPFW making the NCAA tournament.

“Oh, I would be excited,” Westrick says. “I would be dancing in the streets.”

But as North Dakota State went up 42-41 with 11:37 remaining in the game, the chants turned to “defense, defense.”

“As soon as they call our name on Sunday, we’ll be loading up the car and going,” Leonard says.

But he’ll have to wait another year.

jcohn@jg.net

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