OK, so it's not the NCAA tournament.
But Weber State sophomore James Hayek got a thrill when he saw the line for tickets that at 10 a.m. Monday stretched outside the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah, and was still there at 3:30 after practice.
Weber State is hosting East Carolina in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament final Tuesday night, and the 6-foot-10, 250-pound post player from Omaha Skutt is hoping for a full house of 11,500. If the Wildcats win, they'd be the first school in Big Sky history to win a national postseason tournament.
“It's huge having a championship game at home,” he said. “Hopefully, we can bring a championship back to Ogden.”
Hajek said it was tough when the 30-6 Wildcats didn't get an NCAA or NIT bid despite making the Big Sky tournament final and finishing 18-2 in the league.
But the more they play, the more fun they're having.
“We feel like we're having a really good run right now and have a lot of momentum,” Hajek said. “Just playing games like this helps us build team chemistry and our confidence.”
Hajek had one of his best games on Saturday when the Wildcats edged Northern Iowa 59-56 in the semifinals. Northern Iowa had beaten Wichita State on its home court, and with the Shockers in the Final Four, that added a little extra to the win that made Weber the first Big Sky team to win 30 games.
Hajek, who averages 10 minutes a game, grabbed five rebounds in the second half and got kudos for his defense. Hajek prides himself on both because he's not much of a scorer. He averages 2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds.
“I'm the tough guy out there when we need a tough guy on defense and rebounding,” he said.
The game was even more special because his parents, Jerry and Elizabeth, and his aunt and cousin, Karen and Mitchell Fischmeyer, were on hand.
“That was my highlight to do that in front of my parents,” said Hajek, a business administration major with a 3.6 grade-point average.
Weber has won 17 of its last 18 games and 14 straight at home. A win at home against East Carolina would be its 18th and a school record.
Hajek said the Wildcats are more than ready for East Carolina (22-12). The Pirates will be on the road for the first time in the tournament.
“I don't know if we're playing our best basketball,” Hajek said, “but we feel like we're playing really well right now.”
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