The Dayton Flyers picked up some fans in an unlikely place Sunday afternoon as they fought their way to an Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship.
We watched with a series of kind strangers and an amiable bartender at Legends Bar in Suring,Wisconsin as our grand niece Shakeela Fowler and her teammates beat VCU 52-48 to earn an automatic NCAA Division I tournament bid.
From that tiny bar in that tiny town (population 524), we connected via text with my sister Kathy, her husband Keith and son Traveain, who were glued to their television set in Milwaukee, and they texted with Shakeela’s parents Trenette and Jimmy, who were watching the game right behind the bench in the University of Dayton Arena , and they told their daughter that she had a whole bar in North Wisconsin cheering for Dayton, and Shakeela kicked some butt.
That’s how you play tournament telephone, ladies and gentlemen.
But the national cheering didn’t stop there.
Our friend Patty Gallagher texted a picture from New Jersey of her daughter Clare, a huge Dayton fan currently living in Chicago, and we forwarded that photo down south too.
We’ve been Shakeela fans since we first saw her play more than eight years ago, and it’s been an exciting, poignant, entertaining, ride — almost exactly like the NCAA tournament itself.
She plays like a person a foot taller than she is, fierce, fleet and fun. A knee injury knocked her out of the entire 2018 season, but she fought back hard so it felt extra good to see the pictures of her cutting down the net after the big Flyer win.
We’ll be waiting along with the rest of the growing Dayton basketball fanbase as the pairings comes out on March 16 and we’re just thrilled that Shakeela gets to wrap up her senior season at the big dance.