Monday, December 17, 2007
By Brad Memberto
The Lompoc Record
The Lompoc Record
A lot of people have told me that going to a Golden State Warrior game is an exciting NBA experience. Well, I had my chance Friday when the Warriors hosted the Los Angeles Lakers.
Let me tell you, if you've never been to the Oracle Arena to see a game - go - now!
You are Missy-ing a Bunch.
Missy Bunch that is. A petite fireball of beauty and grace and more importantly a neighbor from the area. Bunch, 22, a first-year member of the Warrior Girls dance team, is a 2003 graduate of Lompoc High School.
She was a cheerleader in each of her four years at the school and still has fond memories of her hometown.
“Born and raised - Lompoc Hospital,” Bunch said. “I was the ASB president and a coach-cheer captain my senior year.”
But right now Bunch is a busy girl in the Bay Area. And she's been busy from the moment she arrived in town.
“I just moved to San Francisco last July on a whim,” she explained. “Two weeks later I auditioned for the Warriors and made it.”
Bunch talked about the process.
“I knew I was moving to San Francisco, so I looked up the Warriors who were closest,” she said. “It said the week I moved there that the tryouts were that weekend. So I still had boxes up to my forehead and went to the auditions.”
There were 200 girls there and it's a four-day process,” she continued. “First day they cut down to 50, second day to 25 and so forth until there were 14 girls left.”
Being a Warrior girl is a tough job, but Bunch is having the time of her life.
“We practice a lot,” she said. “For me the commute is long, because it's in San Ramon where we practice. When we get there we are expected to be warm, be stretched out and ready to go.”
All the hard work, however, is well worth the effort.
“The camaraderie - the friendships I've been building,” Bunch said. “The opportunities that have been growing for me through this is amazing.
“I'm in a calendar now,” she continued. “I'm a little girl from Lompoc and now I'm in a swimsuit calendar.”
Don't get me started on the calendar - THEY ARE SOLD OUT!
“We can't even buy any because there are none left,” Bunch sighed. “I go to the team store every game and they never have any.”
More on the calendar - how you can still buy one and Bunch, in a moment - but let's move into the Oracle Arena for the game.
Lakers and Warriors, always an exciting matchup and this night was no exception. The place was rocking from the git-go.
Oracle is nowhere near the size of the Staples Center or the United Center in Chicago - the two places I have seen the most of my recent NBA games, but it is a whole lot louder.
Especially on Friday when 20,705 fans piled in. The largest crowd to ever witness a basketball game in the state of California. I didn't know I had that many fans.
The arena has a more intimate feel than the large expanses of the other two mentioned.
And when people cheer, you can hear them loud and clear. The noise doesn't get lost in the ceiling of a cavernous building, but it lands smack dab on the floor of the basketball court.
There were quite a few Lakers fans in the crowd and they tried hard to make noise as well.
When the game started, every seat had a placard taped to it saying “We're Back” and people wore T-shirts with the same sentiment, as well as left-over T-shirts from last year's “We Believe” mantra.
“Once the crowd gets into it the players play better,” Bunch explained. “And when they start cheering louder - we start dancing even better.
“Fans don't realize what a big role they play for the Warriors,” she continued. “They really feed off that. And when the Warriors feed off the crowd, we feed off that and it's just an awesome time. We Believe is a really striking phrase for us.”
Several seats in the lower level were empty for a good portion of the first quarter. Oh wait, I already said Lakers fans were there (Late even on road games I see).
But every seat was filled by half-time with a screaming fanatic.
I was a little disappointed that the Warrior Girls didn't dance more, but there was always something going on during time-outs - which are really long when ESPN is broadcasting the game. The TV time-outs seemed longer than a Stephen A. Smith rant.
But I believe it was Missy and her friends that put the game over the top when a time-out was called with 2:38 remaining in the game. The Warrior girls came onto the floor, danced up a storm as four big Warriors flags were waved getting the crowd worked up into a furious frenzy.
Trailing 103-98, the Warriors came out of the break and went on a 10-1 run to take control.
I have never heard a crowd as loud ANYWHERE, after Baron Davis hit an off-balance 3-pointer with 16.8 remaining to ice the victory.
What a great feeling it is to be in an arena with such electricity before, during and after a game. And to know someone from your own little world is a major part of it.
“I'm really excited to be a part of it,” Bunch said. “I have found a place.”
One of those places is the month of August in the Warrior Girls 2008 Calendar. DID I SAY THEY WERE SOLD OUT!
“I actually thought I was going to be nervous, but it was OK,” Bunch said about the photo shoot. “We had to be there at 8 a.m. - full hair and makeup. Kelsey (a fellow Warrior Girl) and I live in the city, so we had to leave at 6.
“It was very cold. You can't tell but there are goosebumps on all of the girls,” Bunch laughed. “It's interesting to be in a bikini and have 20 people just standing around watching you.”
The fame that comes with the calendar and the dancing had been another interesting turn for Bunch as well.
“It's kind of awkward coming from a small town and signing autographs,” Bunch said.
But she has found her niche in something that she truly enjoys.
“The first moment I stepped on a stage, I knew it was my calling,” Bunch explained. “I love to perform and I love to teach children how to dance.”
Go behind the scenes of the Warriors Girl Calendar photo shoot.
While attending Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Bunch performed and taught hip hop and jazz dancing to kids.
“I watch them grow and express themselves through movement right before my eyes,” she said. “It's a beautiful art.”
And art that she has excelled in.
“I had a lot of performances and recitals,” Bunch said about her time at college. “I was actually offered a solo my last year at Orange Coast. That was a big deal.
“I did a tribute to my dad,” she continued. “It was about five minutes long, a modern piece. The theater seats 1,000 people and that was my biggest audience ... until now.”
Now, it's 20,000. And big crowds shouldn't bother her after all those years on the sidelines at Huyck Stadium.
“I remember cheering at games and I couldn't even hear because the fans were so loud,” Bunch said. “And my graduation year, we won Division 10 - It was a real big deal. People couldn't even sit down anymore, the stadium was so packed.”
As a big city girl now, Missy Bunch will never let the small-town girl go away completely.
“Lompoc is home to me, I crave going back to Lompoc,” she explained. “The thing about Lompoc Is it's very easy to want to stay. I go for a couple of days and I want to stay for one more day.
“I miss Lompoc and I cherish the childhood that I had and I can't wait to come back,” she continued. “And I thank Lompoc for letting me find my dreams.”
Good luck Missy and good luck Warriors, thanks for the exciting evening at the Oracle Arena.
But next time you come to visit Mom, you better bring me a calendar.
Missy Bunch is the feature model for August in the Warrior Girls 2008 Calendar. The calendar, which is available for $12, can be purchased online here.