On January 9, 2015, Lick-Wilmerding basketball fans exuberantly dressed in black and gold regalia, packing brown bag lunches, and carrying pom poms and various freshly painted banners to support the players, climbed aboard the busses parked in front of 755 Ocean Ave.
They were headed for the Big Game between Lick-Wilmerding’s Tigers and University High’s Red Devils at Oakland’s Oracle Arena on January 9, 2015. Signs of players’ faces and catchy phrases, black and yellow war paint, and a confusing blow up tiger were in the crowd. Lick students were dressed in full Tiger regalia and were ready to face their rivals.
45 minutes later, more than 400 L-W students, faculty and alumni spilled from the busses into the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum and headed inside to settle in.
First up, Girls Varsity.
As the L-W girls made their way onto the Oracle basketball court, Tiger fans roared. Led by cheer captains, Riley Hockett ’15, Nick Frangenberg ’15, and Will Lazo ’15, students waved their black and yellow pom-poms and screamed their approval.
Maya Burris ’17 tipped the ball off to a teammate and the game began. The first half was executed well and the team played good defense. However, Burris and Ayzhiana Basallo ’17 had to take time out due to in-game injuries.
In the second half, UHS surged ahead by hitting three-pointers and making baskets against a Lick defense that slowly fell apart. The Lick team fought in the fourth quarter and made a small comeback, but UHS was able to maintain their lead and won 55 to 41.
Despite the loss, captain Julia Thompson ’15 thinks the team can use this game as motivation. “This was the reality check we needed,” she says. “It’s not going to be as easy as it was last year to win League. We are ready to get back in the gym so when we face UHS again we will be prepared.”
The boys’ team immediately ran onto the court as the girls’ game finished and a new round of play began. The UHS team drew shock and questions from the crowd like “How are they so tall?” The height of University’s players worked against the Lick team, as they had an easier time shooting over and driving against the smaller Lick defenders.
However, there were some standout performances by Lick players. Aaron Long ’15 led the Lick offense pretty successfully, recording 25 points during the game. In a wild last couple of minutes, Long scored a series of shots that revved up the Lick crowd to wild cheering.
Walter Lum ’18 with his dynamic dribbling and shooting inspired “He’s a freshmen” chants that reverberated throughout the arena. Lum seemed to have taken Coach Eliot Smith’s advice to heart, “From the boys’ standpoint, it’s just about effort and hustle. We tell them that you’re playing in front of your classmates and it’s an opportunity to show them who you are.”
The team fought hard in the second half, but by the third quarter UHS had scored a considerable lead. In the end, the boys lost 72 to 51. They maintained a stiff upper lip throughout the game and played admirably. When the team gathered in the locker room after the game, Coach Smith “thanked the boys for their positive attitude of supporting their team mates and never giving up.”
The half time entertainment between the games was glorious. Students loved Lick-Wilmerding’s Dance Ensemble that executed an impressive and exciting routine. UHS presented a 3-point contest that was easily won by a large margin by Lick-Wilmerding players, thus earning free ice cream for the Lick community. Ron Oppenheimer ’16 and UHS student Annie Fraser performed together their annual gymnastics extravaganza during the boys’ game’s halftime, stunning both schools with their ability to flip through four-foot high hoops and strut upside down on their hands.
The cheering for Oracle 2015 was incredibly spirited. Classic cheers like “Defense” and the Rollercoaster made appearances. This year, a whole new set of chants was created, even in the midst of the games. Some choice ones were “We’ve got talent,” a response to the Dance Ensemble performance, “Disrespectful” for when UHS made noise during Lick free throws, and “Moss.” When the girls’ team lost, the Lick crowd yelled loyally, “We are proud of you!” Another chant was the “Defensive Drone,” which consisted of students jumping in the stands and making drone-like buzzing sounds.
“I think a lot of our success comes from the student body’s support,” Smith says. “Sometimes you feel like you’re out there by yourself, but then you hear your school—it really picks the players up.”
Though we didn’t win on the court, we triumphed in the stands. Everyone from the front row to the nosebleed section was stomping and yelling for their team. The Lick teams at Oracle were supported by the school’s unshakable loyalty, noise, talent and creativity. “It brings our whole school together so we’re all proud to wear the black and yellow,” says Smith. “To wear the t-shirts, to have the pom-poms, and to really show our love for our classmates. Whether it be dance, whether it be basketball—it’s a way of showing our culture to everybody.”
After the game, both schools came together for a barbeque in the Oracle parking lot. It was a nice way to end an exciting pair of games—by having the rivals come together over hot dogs and brownies.
“Win or lose, it’s an event, that’s what it says on the t-shirt—Roaracle, memories last forever,” Smith says. “It shows what school spirit’s all about.