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Final Four: A view from the fans

Fans tend to make the team, and this year’s supporters of the Final Four field are no exception.
Rocky Anderson, who traveled from Connecticut, dances in the crowd ahead of the NCAA Women's Final Four on Friday. The Huskies and Notre Dame were playing in the late final. (ALLIE GOULDING  | Times)
Rocky Anderson, who traveled from Connecticut, dances in the crowd ahead of the NCAA Women's Final Four on Friday. The Huskies and Notre Dame were playing in the late final. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
Published Apr. 6, 2019

Hard-core fans’ tales from the road to Tampa:

Real road warriors

Chuck and Beth Lowe are longtime residents of Waco, Texas. Wednesday, the pair got in the car to make the 650-mile drive from Greensboro, N.C. (site of Baylor’s region final win), to Tampa.

The Lowes are never far behind the women’s team.

More than 20 years ago, the Lowes sent their son, Brenner, to college at Baylor. Several years later, in 2005, the couple began attending women’s games.

“We like the way the game is played,” said Chuck Lowe, 72. “It’s a bit more like high school basketball that we played.”

The Lowes’ fanhood quickly became the ultimate example of team loyalty.

These days, the Lowes attend every Baylor game, and they have attended every women’s Final Four for the past decade, even if the Bears aren’t in it. Last year, Chuck was president of the women’s basketball Tip-Off Club, a fan organization that has a membership of more than 650. Every year, the club hosts several luncheons, with players and coach Kim Mulkey as the guests of honor.

But the best times, Chuck says, are had by the basketball court.

The Lowes didn’t miss a game this season, catching the Bears in places like Columbia, S.C.; Stanford, Calif.; and Morgantown, W.Va. Baylor began the season with exhibition games in Italy, and the Lowes — who own a business that produces concrete panels for architectural projects — traveled there, too.

“The kids that play on the team are just so appreciative of the fans,” Lowe said. “They’re not only great basketball players, they’re great people.”

Chuck Lowe and crew watch the Baylor vs. Oregon semifinal during the Women's Final Four tournament on Friday. The group travels each year to the Final Four, even if Baylor isn't in the field. (ALLIE GOULDING |  Times)
Chuck Lowe and crew watch the Baylor vs. Oregon semifinal during the Women's Final Four tournament on Friday. The group travels each year to the Final Four, even if Baylor isn't in the field. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

Tampa is tops

Tip-off of UConn’s Final Four matchup with Notre Dame wasn’t for another 31/2 hours, but Mike Young, sporting a Huskies hat with dozens of women’s Final Four pins attached to the top, was enjoying the scenery in Tourney Town on Friday afternoon.

Along with his wife, Linda Young, Mike, 62, has attended the past 12 women’s Final Fours. Since the Youngs have been coming, the Huskies haven’t missed a trip to the NCAA semifinals.

But to Mike — a Connecticut native who teaches educational psychology at the university — the games are about more than just seeing his beloved team.

“Honestly, it’s the kind of game I could play. I’m a short guy, so I could never be in the NBA. But women pass, and they run plays and they play as a team,” he said. “All of that is what we do in a pickup game. It’s watching really good quality basketball, but a type I could maybe play.”

This year, the journey to the Final Four was a quick one for the Youngs, who spend December through March at a winter home in Boynton Beach. And though the Final Four has taken the Youngs to many destinations across the United States, there’s no doubt in Mike Young’s mind as to his favorite.

“I have to say Tampa,” Young said. “The last time they were here in 2015, that was really fun. We went out for wine slushies, Tourney Town was nice, and the weather was great.”

UConn fans Mike and Linda Young have attended the past 12 women’s Final Fours. (KELLY PARSONS | Times)
UConn fans Mike and Linda Young have attended the past 12 women’s Final Fours. (KELLY PARSONS | Times)

If the coat fits

Mick Regan, 62, stood outside a Coors Beer vendor just minutes before fans entered Amalie Arena when Voanita Cherry walked up asking for a photo.

Well, first she tried to photo bomb him, but it wasn’t the picture she wanted.

“Time to time it happens,” said Regan, just seconds before he posed for the photo, decked out in his green shamrock jacket and white Women’s Final Four Notre Dame baseball cap.

Regan has been a Fighting Irish fan since he was 7 years old. It runs in the family between his Northern Indiana roots and his Irish Catholic heritage.

He’s had his eye-catching jacket for about four years and wears it as much as possible.

“It was love at first sight,” he said.

Voanita Cherry, left, is a fan of Mick Regan's Notre Dame-themed coat. Who wouldn't be? (MARI FAIELLO | Times)
Voanita Cherry, left, is a fan of Mick Regan's Notre Dame-themed coat. Who wouldn't be? (MARI FAIELLO | Times)
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