The stands were full to the rafters Friday night as the Valparaiso Vikings boys basketball team welcomed the Chesterton Trojans for the big rivalry game of the year. Valpo ultimately took home the win with a final score of 67-39.
Fans on both sides cheered their teams on, chanting taunts across the court at each other and shouting encouragement to their players.
The Chesterton High School mascot, the Trojan, was on his team’s side, hyping up his fellow students. Senior Haydn Malackowski has dressed up as the Trojan since his sophomore year and attended every event he can, from football to swimming meets to basketball.
As an end-of-the-bench basketball player himself, Malackowski enjoyed cheering on his teammates. A football mom noticed and encouraged him to don the chainmail, and the rest was history.
“I was a little tentative at first,” Malackowski said, “but people loved it from the start.”
Malackowski was most looking forward to the Jake Wadding-Brandon Newman matchup, which did not disappoint. Both of the athletes wowed the crowd with grand slam dunks and swatted each other down in turn.
The crowd’s excitement grew during halftime when the Vikette’s brought out their junior dancers to lend an element of timelessness to the good-natured rivalry and Mike Denny, Youth Pastor at Valparaiso Nazarene Church, handed out 40 Papa John’s pizzas.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” said Denny. “We wanted to surprise the student section with even more to cheer about!”
Denny’s relationship with the students, and especially the basketball players, is longstanding.
“We do Breakfast Club every Monday night,” Denny said. “They practice after school and then we feed them all-you-can-eat pancakes and they hang out with us. It’s been great to watch them play and succeed this year.”
Friday night marked another successful night for Valparaiso, but all the fans left in high spirits, which was fortunate as all the overflow parking lots were packed and exiting the school property took upwards of 20 minutes.
Congratulations to both teams for a game played hard and with great sportsmanship!