As far as reputation goes, it's been a while since Notre Dame High had a basketball team that was feared in the Del Rey League. As far as the reputation of the fans, however, well, let Coach Mick Cady explain it.
"When I came to the Valley to take this job, I'd heard about this place," Cady said with a glance around the Notre Dame gym. "I'd heard they have guys hanging from the rafters for games at this place."
Thursday night, a standing-room-only crowd of 2,000 showed up to boo and hiss arch-rival Crespi. Notre Dame heard the call of the wild and responded with a 72-50 win, the Knights' fifth consecutive victory.
It was so loud and the fans were so fired up that Cady and his assistants were forced to use flash cards to signal the plays.
"It's been a while since we had to use those things," said Notre Dame senior guard Bruce Heicke, who played despite an injured left knee and scored a game-high 20 points. "It was just so loud. It hasn't been like this for a long time."
But bring in Crespi and it adds another dimension to what would normally be a routine league game. The Notre Dame fans wasted no time in welcoming the Celts to the Den of Din.
Signs hung from the rafters reading "Welcome to your Knightmare," and the like. It was Heicke, who wore nearly as much tape on his banged-up knees as hung from the gym walls, who led the Notre Dame charge.
The Knights shot 67% in the first half and took a 37-21 lead. Heicke scored nine points in the half, including seven in the first quarter.
Brian Jones, a junior forward, scored 12 of his 17 points before intermission to fuel the mania. Jones scored seven points in the second quarter and made 5 of 6 shots in the first half to put the Celts (8-7, 0-2) in a big hole.
Hole? One could be almost certain that's what Crespi players thought of the Notre Dame gym. Bill Foudy led Crespi with 17 points, but no other Celt player scored more than seven.
"If we have crowds like this the rest of the year," Cady said, "I don't see how we can lose another league game at home. They really got us going early."
Notre Dame made six shots in a row to close the first quarter with an 18-12 lead. It got no better for Crespi in the second period as the Knights reeled off a 14-0 streak to take a whopping 33-18 lead with 2:39 left in the half.
The Knights (7-6, 2-0 in league play) scored the first seven points of the third quarter, forging a 44-24 lead that Crespi was unable to overcome.
It might have taken earmuffs for Coach Paul Muff's Crespi team to have a chance.
"It was unreal," said Heicke, an All-Del Rey selection as a junior. "There's never been a crowd like that here."
Forwards Ed Cogan and Kenny Hicks had 12 and 10 points, respectively, for Notre Dame.
After an unspectacular 2-6 start, the Knights now share first place in the league.
"We played some tough teams," Cady screamed as players and fans bumped into him during a mid-court celebration. "St. Anthony, St. Monica, Serra, Glendale, but it was good preparation for the league schedule. Too many times teams are written off after a slow start, but we've come back."
Two thousand fans can tell you all about it.