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Stanford Fans Ready for Final Four

March 23, 1998

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ After a 56-year wait between trips to the Final Four, the rush is on at Stanford.

Setting aside their shock and disbelief at Stanford’s last-minute win over Rhode Island in Sunday’s Midwest Regional championship, scores of people turned out Monday to get on the bandwagon for the Cardinal’s first Final Four appearance since the 1942 team won the national title.

``If you’re Duke or North Carolina, Kentucky, you kind of assume you’re going to go every few years. For Stanford, this is almost a first-time thing and everyone is going crazy,″ student David Flemming said after spending $100 for a ticket to the semifinals and title game this weekend in San Antonio.

Stanford overcame a six-point deficit in the final minute to defeat Rhode Island 79-77 and advance to Saturday’s meeting against Kentucky, which needed a stirring comeback of its own to beat Duke 86-84 in the South Regional final.

``We went from a feeling of, `Oh, no, we’re going to lose this game,′ to a feeling of absolute elation,″ Stanford forward Mark Madsen said. ``And Arthur Lee is the guy who made it happen.″ Lee extended the Cardinal’s season by scoring 13 of his 26 points in the last 2:04.

The players and coaches weren’t the only ones caught up in the emotional roller coaster.

``When we were down six points with 59 seconds left, I figured it was over,″ said Matt Etheridge, a financial analyst at Stanford who also plans to attend the Final Four. ``So I walked into a store, was there for a few minutes, and came back out to the car. The game was still going on and we were up by one point. It was just very exciting, a tremendous accomplishment.″

Flemming, a classics major at the school, was working Sunday as the public address announcer at the baseball game between Stanford and Washington at Sunken Diamond.

``When we went ahead in the last minute every one of us in the press box started jumping up and down screaming and hollering,″ said Flemming. ``So did the fans in the stands and even players down on the field, because they were all looking up at us trying to figure out what was happening and we were giving out the updates. Everyone was more involved in the basketball game than the baseball game.″

Many students were away on spring break and there were few tangible signs around campus indicating the school was in the Final Four. But the athletic department and its ticket office were inundated.

Stanford received an allotment of 3,500 tickets to the Final Four and for now, students, alumni, season-ticket holders and boosters were being given priority to purchase them.

``The phones have been non-stop since we opened this morning. Business is very brisk and it’s very exciting,″ said assistant athletic director Bob Carruesco. ``It was just a phenomenal game and the Final Four is something very special. This is kind of unchartered ground for us, so you just go through it and enjoy it as you go along.″

While Stanford’s women’s team has six Final Four trips and two national titles in the 1990s, the men’s team endured a 47-year NCAA tournament drought after winning the title in ’42.

Though Stanford has gained entry six times in the last 10 years, ``Somebody would have thought you’re a lunatic if you said five years ago that Stanford would be in the Final Four,″ Flemming said.

Etheridge said the championship push by the men’s team helped ease the sting of the Stanford women’s first-round ouster by Harvard, which became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed when it eliminated the Cardinal.

``I guess that’s the counterpoint to all this,″ Etheridge said. ``Losing in the first-round was pretty rough for them.″

The men’s team and coach Mike Montgomery arrived home late Sunday night to a boisterous welcome from some 200 people gathered outside Maples Pavilion, the school’s basketball home.

The players joined other students in taking the day off Monday before resuming preparations Tuesday for their meeting with Kentucky. The team is scheduled to leave for San Antonio on Wednesday.

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