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Gonzaga Basketball

Even from up high, Gonzaga fans soak up the experience

Some seats at University of Phoenix Stadium are so far from the court that it seems easier to watch the action on the video screen. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Zags or no Zags, Amber Westlin and Josh Burch were going to the Final Four.

The North Seattle residents booked their tickets to the Final Four right as they went on sale. But they had an inkling their investment would pay off.

“I knew the Zags were going to make it from the very beginning,” Westlin said. “I called it.”

The same goes for Lorna Ellestad, John Miller and Jean Anderson, Washington natives who all vacation in the same condominium complex in Peoria, Arizona. They entered a lottery to buy Final Four tickets and purchased them once they won in November.

“We would have never forgiven ourselves if we wouldn’t have gotten tickets with the Final Four here and if the Zags made it,” Ellestad said. “We would have been in here representing them regardless.”

The seats they all purchased were up near the rafters at the cavernous University of Phoenix Stadium, where watching on the video screen may have been easier then squinting to make out what’s happening on the court.

The experience of being there makes it all worth it.

Some fans didn’t have that type of foresight, but the motivation was there for John and Nicole Shellooe a married couple from Seattle. John, who graduated from Gonzaga in 2005, said right when Gonzaga beat Xavier and Oregon beat Kansas – Nicole is an Oregon alum – they pounced on the opportunity.

“We had no plans, no tickets, we have a 2-year-old at home,” Matt said. “We had to make a lot of logistics happen to get here.”

John and Nicole were hoping for an Oregon-Gonzaga final, although it may have taken a toll on their relationship. With Oregon knocked out by North Carolina in the final, Nicole put aside her disappointment and donned a Gonzaga shirt to match her husband and made the climb up the Arena.

“Marriagial conflicts resolved for today,” Nicole said.

And their seat? Not that bad.

“It’s better than we expected,” Matt said. “We borrow some binoculars here and there, and that helps. But it’s good. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Matt and Nicole’s journey to Phoenix exemplifies some of the sacrifices made for many Gonzaga fans who made the trek to the Final Four.

“It’s lucky that we can afford to come here, because if it was in a 20,000 seat arena I don’t think we can afford it,” Matt said. “We just appreciate that we can be in the stadium at all and we can be a part of the action.”