By Dylan Manfre
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — When junior forward Dontrell McQuarter hit a game-winning shot in the men’s basketball team’s game against Canisius on March 8, fake crowd noise, a symbol of empty arenas all around the country this year, did not follow.
Real, authentic cheering did. Fans in the stands? Yes, that is correct.
Though the cheers and claps from the limited-capacity crowd were sparse, they were heard. There was no mistaking the that part of atmosphere which the coronavirus pandemic stripped from games in the past year.
There were even a couple of spectators heckling at referees during the matchup. What made it even more electric was Rider upsetting Canisius in the game’s waning moments.
Darrell McGlone was sporting a cranberry hat and a Rider shirt as he clapped and cheered on his son, Jaelen McGlone, a freshman on the men’s basketball team.
His father was emphatic that he had never missed one of his son’s games, or at least intentionally. Receiving chemotherapy treatment and radiation for a cancerous tumor earlier that day would not even stop him from seeing the game in person.
“When he told us on Friday night or Saturday night that they were going to allow people at the games, we started making plans so we could come and at least make it to one game,” the father said. “Extremely happy to be here and have a chance to come see him in person at a college game. We’ve been watching all the games on TV for the entire year.”
Jaelen McGlone’s older sister Daisa McGlone was also in attendance supporting her younger brother. She had not seen him play since his last high school game.
“I figured it’d be another year before we would be allowed to come to any of his games,” Daisa McGlone said. “I wasn’t expecting to see him [play] until his sophomore year.”
Daisa McGlone said she was instructed to go to the will-call ticket section when she entered Boardwalk Hall and say that her sibling was on the team. She proceeded to show the tournament personnel her driver’s license and got her temperature taken by what she described as a “video thermometer” before being let into Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Former Rider stars Anthony Durham ‘19, Joe Aijke ‘18 and Ryan Thompson ‘10 were also in attendance at the game as guests of the team.
“Me and Joe Ajike hit up [Head Coach Kevin Baggett], to see if he could get some tickets because we heard they were gonna have fans in the games,” said Durham who most recently played for BC Kolin in the Czech Republic. “It feels good to have some fans in here. We try to cheer out loudest and cheer the guys on.”
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) changed course to allow a limited amount of “friends and family” to the postseason basketball tournament after originally not allowing any spectators. No tickets were sold to the public and only a select number of passes were given to the teams.
10% of the maximum capacity (1,050 people) were allowed at the arena for the tournament games. This comes after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing spectators at sporting events.
MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement, “It is great that the recent executive order lifting attendance limits in athletic venues will allow us to accommodate a limited number of ‘Friends and Families’ of the teams, particularly the parents, siblings and children of the student-athletes and the coaching staffs.”
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