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ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Servite's home crowd has chants that they perform during games like here where they all explode into a shout at the same time.

'The Asylum' roars its support for Servite

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

With two minutes remaining in the Servite-Mater Dei junior varsity basketball game last week, a timeout was called, and both teams retreated to their benches.

Joel Hartmann, Servite's associate athletic director, then got on the PA system to announce that the gymnasium would be cleared out at the conclusion of the JV game.

"They clear it out for The Asylum," one man explained to his friend in the bleachers.

As the buzzer sounded, fans were escorted out the main entrance. Once the gym was clear, a simple head nod from Hartmann signaled the security officers to let The Asylum in for the varsity game.

As the back doors of the gymnasium swung open, a sea of students flooded onto the court. Some were covered in face and body paint, while others layered themselves in Servite regalia – headbands, jerseys, shirts, shorts, socks, anything that had the school's crest on it.

Meet The Asylum.

As any member of this crazed fan base will tell you, they are the new and improved Servite student section. Formerly known as The Pit Crew, the class of 2013 renamed the section to signal a new beginning.

"The past few years, the spirit of this school – the student section – hasn't been where we would like it to be," said Brian Francke, The Asylum's ring leader. "So the seniors took it upon ourselves to bring it back."

The Asylum's history dates to the end of last basketball season. In the second round of the CIF 3AA basketball playoffs, Servite traveled to take on Yorba Linda High. What unraveled was a highly competitive game both on and off the court.

While the Mustangs and Friars battled it out on the floor, the fan bases went chant-for-chant with each other.

Servite's basketball season ended that night, but it marked the birth of The Asylum.

"We had a taste of it at the Yorba Linda game," Francke said. "We just thought this year we could help our team win if we continue to show up. And I think it's shown."

Servite (13-8) has upset two top-10 Orange County teams so far this season. It opened the year with a 44-41 victory over El Toro – now ranked No. 5 in the county – and also traveled to Canyon High and upset the Comanches in the North O.C. Championships.

"Canyon was the first real big away game, and we showed up and overtook their gym," Francke said.

From time to time, crowds storm the home court after an upset victory. Rarely does a visiting fan base occupy the floor. But that's exactly what the nearly 200 Servite students in attendance did after the win: storm an opponent's court.

"There's nothing else like it," said senior Vince Garcia. "No other school can match up to all the brotherhood we have here."

And against Mater Dei's varsity last week, The Asylum lived up to its reputation.

The gym was deafening. The floor was shaking. The students were fired up.

Close to 500 of them, more than half of the school's enrollment, piled into their side of the bleachers, occupying every seat.

"It's just crazy," said Mater Dei point guard Jordan Strawberry. "They're real wild. You just have to keep your composure on the court. You can't show them you're getting frustrated."

Their chants are witty, thought-out and creative. If an opposing player got a C on a test, The Asylum would bring it up; perhaps the Servite students saw the grade on Twitter.

Even as the Monarchs led by more than 30 points in the fourth quarter, every missed shot or missed free throw warranted a chant of "overrated" or "rattled."

There's not a minute that goes by that you don't hear The Asylum.

In fact, the only time the students sat the entire night was at halftime during the cheer squad's dance routine.

Before the game, Strawberry had tweeted, "I love playing away games, because I love playing against hostile crowds!"

After Mater Dei's 53-16 win, he credited The Asylum: "You guys are some true fans," Strawberry said in his tweet. "Respect."

"If I'm a kid, I don't know why I don't come here," said Servite Coach John Morris. "We get to play in front of the best gym in Orange County and Southern California."

When asked where they rank in terms of Orange County fan bases, without missing a beat, a handful of seniors replied, "The best! Hands down!"

Then, from the back of the crowd, senior Kyle Ray shouted, "We're the best in the country!"

Contact the writer: 714-704-3782 or kconnolly@ocregister.com


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