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Young Zag fans turn out in droves to watch Gonzaga in San Jose

UPDATED: Wed., March 22, 2017, 9:09 p.m.

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is greeted by school children as he enters the court at the SAP Center on Wednesday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is greeted by school children as he enters the court at the SAP Center on Wednesday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Inside the SAP Center, about 1,000 screaming elementary school-aged children waited for their favorite team to take the floor – the Zags.

Children from Rocketship, a group of elementary charter schools in San Jose, filled the stands inside the arena on Wednesday to watch the West Regional teams practice.

Right before Gonzaga took the court at 2 p.m., the kids lined up along the railing of the stands and peered into the tunnels, waiting for the Zags to run through.

“Here they come!” one boy yelled out to his teammates. The school kids had their pens and papers ready for autographs from the college athletes. A handful of them even managed to snag an autograph from ex-NBA player Chris Webber, the color commentator for Gonzaga’s game against West Virginia on Thursday.

Heidi Shinn, the principal of Rocketships’ Si Se Puede Academy, said the kids at her school filled out brackets before attending the afternoon practices that were free to the public.

“Most of them chose Gonzaga to win it all,” Shinn said.

She said there were a few Arizona fans here and there, but most of the kids at her academy are pulling for the Bulldogs to get to the Final Four.

A group of school children from Si Se Puede gathered in the front row seats right behind Gonzaga’s bench, chanting, “We want Spike!” Gonzaga’s band chimed in with the school kids. The Bulldogs’ mascot waved to the kids and pumped his fist in the air to the chants before walking over to the stands to sign some autographs.

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