Toppers celebrate tournament win back in Bowling Green

Guard Jamal Crook carries the championship trophy off of the bus as the team arrives Tuesday, Mar. 12 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Western Kentucky defeated Florida International 65-63 to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship for the second year in a row. 

Elliott Pratt

The celebration rolled from Hot Springs to Bowling Green Tuesday afternoon. WKU fans gathered outside Diddle Arena to welcome back home the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion Hilltoppers.

Coach Ray Harper, senior guard Jamal Crook, and WKU’s two SBC all-tournament players, sophomore forward George Fant and junior guard Brandon Harris spoke to the crowd thanking them for their support throughout the season.

Crook said the turnout spoke volumes about the support the team had through a roller coaster-like season.

“They really appreciate us and we really appreciate them,” Crook said. “They’ve been with us since day one. Even when we had our tough times, they always fought and stuck with us.”

Harris held the SBC Tournament trophy close to his chest while talking about not fully believing the dream he had lived for less than a day.

“I’m not going to believe it until I see our opponent on Selection Sunday,” Harris said. “But I’m holding this trophy, and that’s something they can’t take away from me.”

Among the fans and alumni in attendance of the celebration was Sally Gough, a 1971 graduate of WKU. Gough said the atmosphere was very similar to the celebration of WKU’s appearance in the 1971 Final Four just over 40 years ago.

“This is incredible. The school kind of went through a sleeper time and it’s like it’s awake again,” Gough said. “The spirit right now is so reminiscent of the way it was then. It brings back so many memories that my husband and I feel like kids again.”

The school will host a NCAA selection show watch party Sunday in Diddle Arena. Doors open at 4:00 p.m. with the selection show beginning at 5:00 p.m.