The road to the Final 4... literally

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Courtesy photo The view that Jennings family had for the Final 4 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Sometimes things just fall into place.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs historic run to the National Championship game reignited a lot of dormant Zag fans and inspired several members of the community to follow their beloved team across the country.

For the Jennings family, the decision to make the trip to Glendale, Arizona, was made after three-fourths of the family had thought about it independently.

“We were going to go to the Oregon Coast for a few days,” Everett Jennings said. “Chris (Jenning’s oldest son) came up to me on Tuesday night (four days before the Final 4) and told me that he didn’t want to go to Oregon because it was going to be cold and rainy. But then he asked if going to the Final 4 was an option.”

Jennings has been to Gonzaga games every season for the last ten years, but this year he wasn’t able to make one and after their big win over Xavier he thought to himself, “how this be the year that I don’t make to a live game.”

After discussing it with Chris, Jennings began looking into and decided to mention the idea to his wife Dawn.

“I asked Dawn what she thought about going to the Final 4 instead of Oregon and she was like, ‘I’d been thinking about that idea today at work,’ so that was enough for me to make the decision and we bought the tickets on Wednesday morning,” Jennings said.

$1,700 later, the Jennings family had tickets to the biggest event in college basketball.

“I was still going to work on Thursday, so that meant the soonest we could leave was Thursday night,” Jennings said. “We got to Idaho Falls at 2 a.m. and then made the long 20 hour drive to Glendale on Friday.”

Jennings is from Spokane, so the idea of going to see the Zags on the biggest stage of them all was a no brainer, but part of that had to do with the location of the Final 4.

“My brother-in-law’s sister has a condo down there and she was out of town and said we could stay there,” Jennings said.

Once they made it, there wasn’t a lot of time for extra activities, Final 4 Saturday is nearly 6-hours long, but after finding parking, getting to your seat, and then doing the opposite after the games are over, it becomes more than an 8-hour experience.

Being that North Carolina is a national powerhouse, there was more powder blue apparel than anything else, but the Zags had a decent turnout as well.

Jennings also said that you could tell that were some people there who had ordered their tickets in advance.

“We saw people with Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, and Indiana shirts on,” Jennings said. “The atmosphere was awesome, when you are at a game live you sometimes forget to pay attention to the score because you are watching the coaches, other groups of fans, everything.”

During the day break between the Final 4 and the National Championship Jennings decided to do some of his favorite things.

Shoe shopping and more basketball.

After visiting various Nike stores and popular shoe boutique Been Had Those and picking up some new Jordans for himself and his boys, the Jennings family took in a NBA contest between the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.

“James Harden didn’t play so that was kind of a bummer,” Jennings said.

Seeing the Bulldogs on the floor for the National Championship ended up being more painful for people at home due to the slow, plodding nature of the game (fouls mainly), but it never seemed to be anything that made the live event suffer.

“There were a lot of fouls,” Jennings said. “I had friends texting me about the fouls, but that’s basketball. The refs get to decide how the rules get enforced. The game and the experience was still amazing.”

Following the Zag’s tough loss on Monday night, the Jennings family got set to depart the next morning.

Following the same 20 hour trip to Idaho Falls, ironically arriving again at 2 a.m. they made it home on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again, but this time it felt like the timing was too good for us to pass up,” Jennings said. “The Zags are supposed to be pretty good next year, but the next five years all have the Final 4 being somewhere on the eastern side of the country.”

It took one good idea (shared by three people), $1,700 for four tickets to the three games in the nosebleeds (according to Jennings), 2,800 miles (or from 232,000 to 235,000 miles if you are “the old car”), three pairs of Air Jordans and around $4,000 total dollars spent, but according to Jennings it was all worth it.

“Once we bought the tickets we were over our budget, so the rest was like, ‘why not?’ You aren’t going to not shop, not buy the gear at the games, you are going to go and do everything you can and it was a blast.”

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