One thing is for certain Friday at 11 a.m. when the Texas A&M-Commerce Lions come to visit Sam Houston for a non-conference women's basketball game. Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum will be rocking and loud.
Friday marks the fifth annual "Pack the House" Challenge game with more than 4,000 elementary students from Walker County area schools bused to the campus to watch NCAA Division I women's basketball.
Four years ago, in the first "Pack the House" contest, a school women's basketball record crowd of 2,261 saw the Bearkats play Southern Mississippi.
In the second “Pack the House” game, Ole Miss was the opponent and 2,456 fans filled the coliseum. The third year, attendance grew to 2,503, another record, as the Kats defeated Centenary 83-55.
Last year, Sam Houston women’s basketball produced a new high with 3,141 screaming fans watched the Bearkats defeat Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“This year we are pushing for more than 4,000 fans to fill Johnson Coliseum,” Sam Houston head coach Brenda Nichols said. “If any fans haven’t experienced a Pack the House, It is an experience that they will not want to miss.”
"Pack the House" is national effort by NCAA Division I in which conferences and institutions compete to build attendance. The NCAA awards prizes to each winner who in turn donates the $500 to the nonprofit organization of each winning institution's choice.
Almost two-thirds of the Division I membership - 184 institutions - participated in the effort last year that attracted more than 559,000 fans.
Three of the last four seasons, Sam Houston has been the Southland Conference winner in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball "Pack the House" Challenge.
"Our girls really look forward to the 'Pack the House' game. With all those kids in the coliseum, it's just a great atmosphere," Nichols said. "It's a great way to introduce area youngsters to college athletics. Every person that attends is counted in the overall total and attendance is a major component to winning the award. We certainly hope that Sam Houston students, faculty and staff will want to come spent their lunchtime with us Friday and join in the fun.”
Sam Houston brings a 1-3 record into the contest with A&M-Commerce, but the losses have come to some of the top-ranked teams in the country.
Three seniors lead the Bearkat squad this season with Britni Martin averaging 16.5 points, Sequeena Thomas adding 9.0 points and 11.3 rebounds and Chanice Smith scoring 10.8 per game.
"We’ve continued to improve every game," Nichols said. "We like what we see -- doing those little things, playing without the ball, still working even when you're not getting the ball. That is what makes champions."
Bearkat women's basketball tickets are on sale online now at www.gobearkats.com/tickets or at the SHSU Athletic Ticket Office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.