A good 30 minutes before the Dalton State College celebrated its first men’s basketball home game Thursday with the tipoff, cars were filling the parking lot of the trade center and fans filled half the seats in the arena.
By the time Ricky Sears made a 3-pointer for the game’s first points, Dalton State had welcomed Hiwassee College from Madisonville, Tenn., for the Roadrunners’ biggest event since announcing the return of athletics almost two years ago.
The number of people who showed up to watch Dalton State win their home opener 68-46 indicates the Roadrunners’ supporters also think this was a big deal.
“I believe it’ll be a full house,” said Pete Gunn, 65, who has lived in Dalton for 33 years and waited since 1978 for college hoops to come back to the Carpet Capital.
As if having inside information, he was right. Bob Beavers, Dalton State College’s sports information director, said the game was sold out and had been since at least Thursday afternoon. The capacity at the arena is 1,950.
Sears was the first name called when David Witherow, the game’s announcer, introduced the first Dalton State starting lineup to take the floor at the trade center. As the home crowd expressed its excitement for the game’s start, Demetrice Jacobs, Preston Earle, Raheem Mosley and Sean Tate joined Sears on the floor.
“It was a great crowd,” Sears said. “We loved it, and we’re glad all the fans are supporting us.”
In 1978, then-named Dalton Junior College closed its men’s basketball program. The rest of the school’s sports soon followed, only to restart for the 2013-2014 school year.
“I’m glad to see this because it gives the community something to do in the winter time,” Gunn said. “It also will help the college grow. It’s a win-win.”
There was a mix of those like Gunn, and also many students like Olivia Walters and Kassie Hardegree, two freshmen.
“People on campus have been talking about this game for a long time — since the season started,” said Hardegree, an Atlanta native.
And students hope the crowds keep coming for the remaining 15 home games.
“We’re going to try to go to as many games as possible,” said Walters, of Macon.