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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

For younger fans growing up in Spokane, Gonzaga has always been a powerhouse

Fans cheer on Gonzaga during their matchup with the Texas Longhorns at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday.  (Jordan Tolley-Turner/The Spokesman-Review)
By Sophia McFarland The Spokesman Review

Given Gonzaga basketball’s impressive showing on Saturday night against Texas, it’s hard to imagine a time when the top-ranked Bulldogs weren’t beating teams by double digits – especially for teens who weren’t alive to see it.

That includes high school junior Grace Warne, who while attending the game Saturday night said that Gonzaga basketball played a significant role in her upbringing.

She said that while she can’t remember a time when the team wasn’t dominant, her mom told her about past games where she walked into the stadium without tickets and got a seat.

Warne and her friends, on the other hand, revealed the only way non-Gonzaga students can get tickets nowadays: through family or a relative who works for the program.

Bo Strahl, a junior at Gonzaga Prep, said he has cheered on the Zags since the day he was born. Which makes sense because his mom is an associate athletic director at the university.

“They’ve always been good. I can’t remember a time when they weren’t,” Strahl said.

He laughed remembering his reaction to last year’s Final Four, when Gonzaga needed a buzzer-beater to advance to the national championship.

“I went absolutely crazy when Jalen Suggs hit that shot against UCLA last year,” Strahl said. “I was literally crying on the floor.”

The idea that young Zags fans care so deeply about the team and its success, yet cannot recall a time when the team didn’t consistently win WCC titles, may seem shocking to older fans.

However, given that Gonzaga basketball has made every NCAA Tournament since 1999 –can you blame them?

Ally Standiford watched in person as Suggs hit one of the most memorable shots in Gonzaga’s history.

With her dad, Chris, as the university’s athletic director, she said she knew a bit about the program’s history.

“While I’ve been alive, Gonzaga has always been really good,” Standiford said, “but my dad told me about their consistent tournament appearances in 1999 and how they hadn’t won in the tournament before then.”

Max Johnson attends every basketball game he can because his mom teaches at Gonzaga.

“Obviously I’m a huge fan,” Johnson said.

After struggling to name his favorite game, he remembered the hysteria after Gonzaga beat Duke and Zion Williamson for the Maui Invitational title in 2018.

Even the heartbreak for younger fans demonstrate just how far the program has come from those pre-1999 years. They mentioned one of the team’s two heartbreaking national championship losses, to North Carolina in 2017 and last year’s defeat against Baylor.

Sentiments from these Gonzaga-loving fans beg the question: will the next generation of teenagers remember when Gonzaga wasn’t competing for a national championship?