01/31/13 — Mount Olive-Barton column

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Mount Olive-Barton column

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 31, 2013 1:47 PM

Minutes after Mount Olive's 83-67 win over archrival Barton last February inside a raucous Kornegay Arena, former Trojans' forward Craig Hayes said, "When the crowd is in it after you hit a shot or even after you make a turnover it's a good feeling.

"The crowd hasn't been like this in a while. They really pushed us. We need it to be like this all the time."

Hayes' words said it all.

The sad thing is the crowd inside Kornegay Arena used to be like that all the time.

Whether it was either the annual Green-White scrimmage, a non-conference game or the highly-anticipated rivalary with Barton, boisterous and clever fans would flock to the arena. They were clad in face paint, painted chests and an array of costumes.

A few years ago, the students unexplainably stopped showing up.

Kornegay Arena has transformed from a house of horrors for opponents to a glorified library that doesn't even strike fear in the heart of old ladies let alone bitter rivals.

The lone exception is Barton's annual visit, the only game that invokes an appearance by the prodigal Krazies and brings the arena back to those days when it rocked at deafening levels. The rivalry has been given its own catchy nickname, "The Battle of the East," complete with T-shirts and plenty of pre-game hype

In last season's Conference Carolinas tournament championship game contested at Kornegay Arena on a Sunday afternoon, it was largely the Barton faithful who filled the bleachers and accounted for the majority of the noise.

A bitter rival invades your house with the conference championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II tournament on the line and your student section is more non-existent than Manti Te'o's girlfriend? Real student sections would never let that happen.

In college basketball's truly intimidating atmospheres such as Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse or Gonzaga's "The Kennel," the student sections show up in full force regardless of whether the opponent is directional state Technical College or it is a nationally-televised game against a ranked foe.

With all due respect to the town of Mount Olive, it isn't exactly a hotbed of activity vying for the time and attention of college students. Year in and out Mount Olive's men's and women's programs consistently put a quality product on the court worth supporting.

It is well past time for Mount Olive students to put down the video games, sign off Facebook, take a break from studying and make Kornegay Arena rock every night -- not just when Barton comes to town.