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For Long Beach 49er fans, NCAA loss is bittersweet

March 15, 2012 |  4:59 pm

Long Beach 49ers
On any given day, the sound of bowling balls crashing into pins would have been echoing through University Game Center at Long Beach State.

But on Thursday, there was only clapping and shouts from dozens of students who watched their basketball team -- the 49ers -- battle New Mexico's Los Lobos in the second round of the NCAA tournament's West Regional.

Yellow and black balloons -- the university's colors -- were taped to the walls. There were posters, too, that read "Beach Madness" and "Fear the Beach."

"We made those an hour before the game to get people hyped up," said Sacha Urbina, 21, a Sports and Spirit Commissioner with Associated Student Inc. "It's been a while since we've been here."

Here, as in the NCAA tournament. It was the first for the 49ers since 2007.

After the 75-68 loss, some students shook their heads. Others applauded for what was a good effort by the 49ers. 

"It's a little disappointing, but it's OK," said senior Roxana Gonzalez, 22, who had wandered down to the student center between classes. "It's my last year and I wanted them to make it."

 She lowered her head and added, "But they didn't."

Afterward, the chairs were gathered up, the posters taken down and the bowling lanes reopened.

For senior Jason Eras, 28, the game meant a lot.

"This is the first time that I've been in a college with a team in the NCAA," he said.

Dressed in a yellow shirt with the words "Fear the Beach," he felt like a part of the tournament and brags about how one of the star players, T.J. Robinson, is in one of his classes.

"Watching [the game] is making me nervous," Eras said at one point. "Our team is in the NCAA!"

Senior Brent Aspiras, 22, was in his comparative animal physiology class but was streaming the NCAA tournament game. With four minutes left in the game, his class was over -- and so was his Internet connection. 

"I ran across campus to get here," he said. "As a fan and student I'm obligated to watch the entire game."

But Aspiras arrived at the student center with only two minutes left in the game and the announcers already had declared New Mexico the winner.

"It's bittersweet," Aspiras said. "We had a great run but we just couldn't pull the upset. I'm proud of the guys and I was glad to be part of the run."


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-- Ruben Vives 

Photo: Long Beach State's Casper Ware, right, drives to the basket against New Mexico's Kendall Williams in the second half of the 49ers' 75-68 loss. Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images