Student cheering sections try to play head games with foes

Martha’s Vineyard fans cheer on their team during a game against Wareham in the Division 3 Boys’ South Sectional basketball finals.
Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe
Martha’s Vineyard fans cheer on their team during a game against Wareham in the Division 3 Boys’ South Sectional basketball finals.

Monday night, at approximately a quarter to 10, North Station was a little busier than normal.

Waiting for the T — a handful not so patiently — hundreds of high school-aged kids decked out in white and royal blue broke out into a “Let’s go, Braintree” chant.

But the chorus was much less pronounced than it was 20 minutes prior, when the Braintree girls’ basketball team appeared to be closing a second-half deficit against Central Catholic in the Division 1 state semifinals at TD Garden.


The Wamps could not complete the comeback, though, falling, 55-51. That did not deter “Wamp Nation.”

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“We’re proud. We’re still proud,” said senior Jonathan Volpe, whose red-white-and-blue headdress and Braintree basketball pinny made him stick out. “We made it pretty far; we got a lot accomplished.

“Wamp Nation is always coming up big, no matter if it’s the Garden or if it’s just a regular-season game.”

That was especially so Monday, as the school’s athletic director, Mike Denise, estimated that about 700 of Braintree’s 1,500 or so students made the trip to the Garden.

Volpe said the students use Twitter to spread plans. On Monday, many met up at the Braintree T station but ran into trouble en route to North Station: There were just too many. So many, in fact, they couldn’t all fit onto a train, so some jogged from Park Street to North Station just to make it to the game in time.


“We were too enthusiastic for the MBTA,” said junior Andrew Brooks. “They couldn’t handle us.”

Denise credited the students, as well as Braintree fans of all ages, with giving the team an “extra oomph.”

“It’s just awesome when you have a sea of royal blue halfway around the TD Garden,” Denise said. “That’s what it is all about. Pride is our hallmark at Braintree High School. Our kids have pride in our school, they have pride in our athletic program, and when a team is doing exceptionally well, everybody wants to be a part of it. And we can’t ask for anything more.”

During the state basketball tournament, the storied “sixth man’’ is not just an extra player off the bench, but often a boisterous student section that sets out to rattle opposing teams, or players, creating a tense, jolting, and festive atmosphere.

At Monday’s Division 3 girls’ state semifinal, students from Archbishop Williams shouted “Jesus loves us,” across the TD Garden court to Pentucket Regional. A player committing a turnover is often serenaded with “It’s all your fault,” accompanied by a sea of pointed fingers. In the Braintree-Central Catholic game, students yelled, “It’s hot in here, there must be some Wamps in the atmosphere.”


Or they verbalized the actions of Central players: “Dribble, dribble, turn, spin, shoot.”

That booming vocal support can help push a team over the top. But when the words are over the top, they can also cause headaches for school administrators.

Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, said that schools have done an excellent job supervising behavior during the state tournament.

But they are not perfect.

“Unfortunately, high school kids will be high school kids and behave in a way that we don’t condone,” Wetzel said. “We’ve had some prominent issues. [In 2009], Needham High School banned students from attending hockey games [during the regular season] because of their behavior.”

During the tournament season, ­MIAA site directors file reports on unusual incidents. At the end of each tournament season, the reports are reviewed by the MIAA.

Wetzel said each school’s athletic director is responsible for assigning the number of monitors for a game during basketball and hockey games.

“We have a sportsmanship area under our tournament formats, and each school is responsible to seeing for it,” Wetzel said. “We have a list of things that are not allowed, and each athletic director is responsible for knowing it.”

Mansfield High’s athletic director, Joe Russo , whose boys’ basketball team captured the Division 1 South title, said he enlists five to 10 teachers, coaches, and administrators to pay close attention to the student body.

“The MIAA [rules] are rooted in maintaining a positive atmosphere for the game,” Russo said. “They frown upon cursing and simple stuff like no noisemakers, and they do a great job at looking at what caused a negative atmosphere and eliminated it.

“Our responsibility is to talk to the students before the game and monitor them during the game. We keep a presence so students know you’re there, and they realize they’re being watched. We’ve been blessed this fall and winter with good behavior.”

Saturday afternoon at University of Massachusetts Boston, Martha’s Vineyard won twice — once on the court, 77-71 over Wareham to claim the Division 3 South boys’ title, and once in the stands, where about 150 Vineyard students decked out in purple “Beat Wareham” T-shirts overmatched a Vikings’ group about half the size.

Vineyard’s advantage was evident from the start, with a booming “Let’s go, Vineyard” chant shaking the bleachers moments before tip-off.

And although the Vineyarders controlled play for much of the actual game, it didn’t discourage Tyler Russell, a senior on the Wareham baseball team who went to as many basketball games as he could.

For a couple of games this season, Russell was afforded some anonymity: His skin-tight blue spandex suit and mask, supplemented by plaid boxers and long white tube socks, made him a mystery to most.

“We were surprised that [Vineyard] got that many people out here. Good for them,” Russell said. “Against Case [March 1], I got to chant every time we had the ball. When there’s less people, you can’t be heard as much. It doesn’t feel as right to chant. I’m trying to get them going, trying to get them to stand up.”

The numbers game did not stop the Vikings’ student section from breaking out its favorite chant whenever a Vineyard player stepped to the free-throw line.

And what about the ever-faithful Wamp Nation?

Well, their work is never done. It’s almost lacrosse season.

Tim Healey can be reached at Correspondent Anthony Gulizia also contributed to this story.