TOMS RIVER — Brandon Cheatham could barely talk by halftime.
The 16-year-old Cedar Creek High School sophomore’s voice was raspy by Sunday evening. Several weeks of screaming left his throat raw.
It didn’t stop him or any of the other affectionately named ‘Creek Crazies’ from shouting their loudest as the Cedar Creek girls basketball team’s historic second varsity season culminated in a 50-38 win over Whippany Park in the state Group I championship.
“Everybody’s on board,” said Cheatham, from Mullica Township. “Our school just has great spirit. The (players) really love it and appreciate it.”
Cheatham and six other Cedar Creek male students sat in the front row of the student section bleachers, their bare chests spelling “GO CREEK” in green paint. They led the 100-plus noisy students who rode buses from the Egg Harbor City school to the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
High school sports teams often get plenty of support from the student bodies. Some are better, bigger or louder than others.
Very few are quite like the Creek Crazies, who are often like the Pirates’ sixth player on the court.
There are several game-day rituals. The students participate in the Pirates’ pregame “I believe” chant. At home games, they open newspapers, feign disinterest and read while opposing starters are introduced.
Everyone has their own personal favorite. Cheatham’s is the “roller coaster.”
Prior to the start of every game’s fourth quarter, the entire student section pretends to be riding a high-thrill coaster. They swing their bodies side to side and forward, screaming the entire time.
Cedar Creek junior forward Kristine Miller gets a kick out of all the little cheers the Crazies scream, such as when the Pirates’ students repeat “Fundamentals!” following an opposing team’s turnover.
“The way they freak out over every little thing is just amazing,” Miller said.
Cedar Creek’s fans felt they had something to prove. The Pirates were labeled by many in the state to be a Group I favorite, but people still doubted the second-year school’s capabilities.
The Crazies proved they believed all season. During the South Jersey playoffs, Cedar Creek’s gym was filled to capacity.
“We’ve always had people go against us because we’re new,” Cheatham said. “They felt we’re not able to do much. We wanted to show them we could.”
Cedar Creek’s student section overwhelmingly outnumbered Whippany Park’s. The supporters of the senior-laden Wildcats squad was often made inaudible by the sounds resonating from Cedar Creek’s students.
Cedar Creek lacks senior experience. The Pirates rely on their fans for an added boost during games.
When Whippany Park came within two baskets of taking the lead in the fourth quarter, Cedar Creek’s students were louder than ever. They alternated cheers rapidly but never quieted down.
“We want to be behind them through everything,” said 17-year-old junior Sarah Kohl, an Egg Harbor City resident and good friend of Miller’s. “I can’t even explain (the fan base) because it’s so amazing.”
Cedar Creek then went on a run to close out the game and win by 12 points. The Crazies erupted on the bleachers before running on the court to greet their new champions.
The scene was remarkable for a school that has barely been open two years.
“I don’t think anyone understands how much it means to us. They bring so much positive energy,” Miller said.
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