By Josh Hall
Herald Sports Editor
EVANSTON — One of the first times I met Evanston boys’ basketball coach Lex Cornia, he told me I wouldn’t find a better gym to take in a game in Wyoming.
After covering Evanston’s final home games of the season on Friday, I am a firm believer of Cornia’s words.
While I have not been to many gyms in Wyoming — I’ve only lived in the state five months — I have been to hundreds of them in multiple states throughout my lifetime.
And yes, there is something special about Red Devil Gymnasium.
I asked Cornia about the atmosphere again after the Red Devils claimed a 55-36 win against Jackson on Friday— just a few hours after the Lady Red Devils came away with a 55-25 win over the Lady Broncs on senior night.
“Hands down, you go across the state, no one has an environment like this,” he said. “The dance team, the cheer team, the student section, and just the venue itself of what we have here at Evanston, there is not a better basketball venue in this state.”
While the basketball games were my main focus, I couldn’t help but notice the size of the crowd on Friday. It was a full house.
“I loved it,” Evanston senior Braxton Hiatt said. “It’s a dream come true to play in front of a big crowd like this on senior night.”
I got goosebumps during the pre-game introductions, which happens to me about five percent of the time when the atmosphere is right. It takes me back to my playing day, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for an Evanston player in the varsity starting lineup.
The student section was packed, and members of the community lined the rails of the track upstairs to watch Evanston play at home for the last time in 2018. There weren’t too many open seats.
“It says a lot about our community, says a lot about our players and our kids and the effort they put in at a very young age to get on this stage,” Cornia said. “What a special place to play.”
I have also always been impressed with Evanston’s marching/jazz band, dance, and cheer teams, as well. That was something I noticed at my first football game this fall. It adds another element to the game itself.
The performances and games at halftime, along with the announcing job coach Ryan Berger provides are entertaining, as well.
The gym is loud, too, which is good.
“Our student section is so awesome,” Evanston senior Chase Critchfield said.
I agree. It’s one of the most locked-in group of students I’ve seen. And like I’ve said before, I grew up a coach’s son, I played basketball in high school and I’ve been covering it for publications for about a decade.
I’m slightly disappointed that the 2017-18 season came and went so quickly, but there is still plenty of basketball to be played for the Red Devils and Lady Red Devils.
“We can’t fall in love with (playing at home),” Cornia said. “We’ve got to get used to playing on the road, and it takes a special toughness to be a tough road team. I think we’ve got it, but we’re going to have to rally, come together and execute even better than we did here. I think it’s a 15-point advantage every time we enter this place.”
I can see why.