Owls flee fire, win title
The Westfield State men’s basketball team hurriedly evacuated a burning Plattsburgh, New York, hotel Saturday afternoon – leaving all their possessions behind.
But the Owls didn’t leave their game behind, as they opened play in the Plattsburgh State Cardinal Classic wearing practice uniforms and shoes provided at a discount price by a local sporting goods store. They then came back the day after the fire to win the tournament.
Firefighters battled the blaze at Plattsburgh’s Comfort Inn and Suites for more than eight hours beginning around noon Saturday. The Westfield State team was awaiting its first game in the tourney that night against Paul Smith’s College when the fire was discovered by hotel employees who sounded an alarm and began alerting guests in rooms.
“We were just hanging out when we heard a lady yell there was a fire,” a team member told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.
“We looked out and saw all the smoke and got out,” another team member told the newspaper as firefighters continued battling the blaze. “All of our stuff – our jerseys, laptops and clothes – is still in there.”
The team went to a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, which made new sneakers available, then donned practice uniforms before beating Paul Smith’s, 118-70, in the opener.
Team members were permitted to retrieve possessions, including playing gear, Sunday after the hotel was inspected.
The Owls then took on host Plattsburgh State – a semifinalist in last year’s Division III Men’s Basketball Championship – in the tourney’s championship game, and won, 64-60.
“What’s really impressive to me is the people of Plattsburgh really opened up their hearts to us – the fire department, the people at Dick’s Sporting Goods,” Westfield State coach Rich Sutter told the Press-Republican.
Hotel guests were assisted by the Red Cross in finding shelter following the fire. About 100 firefighters from approximately 15 area fire departments joined in battling the blaze, which destroyed two restaurants, a health club, a ballroom and some guest rooms in the property.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association