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Viewing parties give alumni a chance to throw support behind Zags

UPDATED: Sat., March 17, 2018, 10:27 p.m.

BOISE – The Gonzaga Bulldogs’ postseason usually provides a good reason for alumni to throw a party.

Year after year, Gonzaga alumni chapters come together to host socials and pull together alumni following the Zags in their run through the NCAA Tournament. The gatherings in the postseason are often made up of alumni from all over the country. Last season, when the Zags made their inaugural run to the Final Four, local chapters drew in Gonzaga alumni from several states as far as the East Coast.

But in Boise, the gatherings have consisted mostly of the locals.

“There’s a huge Gonzaga contingent crowd here,” said Tony Higley, a Gonzaga alumnus who traveled from Spokane to Boise on Saturday. “They’re coming from all over though, all over from southern Idaho.”

Boise has a substantial number of alumni who have either moved back home or transplanted in southern Idaho after graduating from Gonzaga. Their numbers have been overwhelmingly apparent at the socials during the first week of the tournament.

The Boise chapter hosted the first gathering Thursday morning before Gonzaga edged UNC Greensboro 68-64 at Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena. They dressed a local bar, the Silly Birch, in GU colors to welcome early risers with breakfast.

On Saturday, the Boise chapter reserved a small venue called the Stonehouse for a social and lunch before Gonzaga’s second-round matchup with Ohio State.

Higley, who graduated from Gonzaga in 1978, was one of the older alumni who joined members of the Boise chapter in pregame festivities Saturday. He was one of many loyal GU fans who took morning flights on Saturday to be in Boise in the afternoon cheering on the Zags with other former students.

Kevin Bowen, who graduated from Gonzaga last year, stuck to driving. He traveled eight hours from his home in Seattle on Wednesday to get to Boise in time for Thursday’s morning social.

Current students Charlie Buker, Ben McFaul, Derek Zylstra and Jason Knapp also drove. They cut their spring break short in Vancouver, British Columbia, to make the long drive to Boise to watch the Zags and join the alumni at their pregame parties.

At the Saturday social of about 200 attendees, they met plenty of graduates with Boise ties.

Maddie Pacold, a 2005 graduate, was one of several in the room who had moved to Boise after graduating from Gonzaga. The Boise showings were the first time she had the chance to see the Zags play in the postseason since leaving GU.

“We were very excited,” she said. “We were waiting on Sunday, selection Sunday, with the laptop open. The minute we saw they were coming to Boise, we got online and bought tickets.”

Others had family ties in Boise, a good reason to make the trip back to the Northwest to watch the Zags.

Katie Pennington, a 2015 graduate, had the opportunity to visit her parents in Boise from New York. Like so many others at the socials on Thursday and Saturday, Pennington got a two-for-one with a Gonzaga’s tournament appearance in Boise.

“It worked out well,” she said. “I was so excited because I got to be home for the tournament here.”

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