The events that happened at SEFCU Arena on Saturday night are some that the 2,762 in attendance at the SEFCU will not forget for a while. Most will not remember that the Danes eventually pulled out the victory, 65-58.
But they will remember the fire alarm that caused a full evacuation of the arena and 50 minute delay.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Guard Peter Hooley said. “We went to the PE Gym and just tried to stay off our feet and had a little chat. We didn’t know how long it was going to be. Greig (Stire) and I were trying to wager whether the game was going to continue or not because we had no idea what was going on.”
It was much to the nuisance to the Danes, since they were in the midst of a big 27-11 run after the visitors began the game on a 9-0 run.
It began with about 7:30 left in the first half when some exit signs started to blink and a faint alarm leaked into the SEFCU Arena from the lobby, but play kept on as there seemed to be no reason for worry and no visible fire or smoke and only a select crowd recognized the disturbance. But as play went on, about 25 seconds later a louder automated voice from the fire system came over and told all in attendance to evacuate at the nearest exit, causing for more worry. And then after Hooley hit 2 free throws with 6:55 left and at about 7:35 real time, the referees decided to stop the game and public address announcer Josh White told the crowd the alarm did indeed go off and all in attendance had to evacuate and shelter would be provided in the PE Building across the way.
According to Tim Wilkin of the Times Union, UAlbany Athletic Director Mark Benson said a college-aged man was caught using a fire extinguisher on the second floor of the arena, spraying the extinguisher onto the room that holds the postgame press conferences. The powder from the extinguisher triggered a local smoke detector, triggering the fire alarm. There was enough of the product of the extinguisher to cover the press conference room, forcing the postgame conferences to the lobby-level Hall of Fame Room. The school’s Police Deputy Chief declined to say if anyone had been arrested citing an ongoing investigation. Bob Weiner of the Daily Gazette reported someone was arrested after being caught by Eric Fletcher, UAlbany’s assistant director of game operations.
Then, following normal fire protocol, the McKownville Fire Department were sent to the scene to give the OK and give permission to allow fans back into building, which didn’t happen until about 8:10. The teams made their back to the Arena among the crowd and were on the floor at 8:18 for warmups, and after a 7 minute warmup time play resumed at 8:25, totaling a 50 minute delay. At halftime it was announced all in attendance would receive a voucher for 2 free tickets to the Danes next home game, which is Wednesday at 7 PM when they host Niagara.
Saint Francis finished the half on a 12-6 run, but the Danes went into the halftime, still 15 minutes long, up 34-32.
The Danes 2nd half play improved behind the likes of Mike Rowley who had 8 points and 6 rebounds in the final 20 minutes and Hooley and 518 native Joe Cremo, who each had 6 points and a pair of rebounds to their names in the 2nd half. The Danes outscored Saint Francis 30-18 excluding the final 1:43, but a 8-1 Red Flash run would be too little too late, and the Danes would prevail with the 65-58 victory, capping off a crazy night that took a total of 2 hours and 34 minutes.
And even though the delay prolonged the game for an undesired reason, both head coaches were very complementary of the UAlbany athletic department staff postgame.
“The people at Albany were fantastic,” Saint Francis Head Coach Rob Krimmel said postgame. “They took great care of us. They escorted us where we needed to go, made sure we had drinks, made sure we had water, and got us to a place where we didn’t have to worry about too many distractions. That’s a credit to the people here at Albany and made sure that in a little bit of a crazy circumstance we were in good hands and in a good spot.”
“I thought our staff here handled it extremely well,” Brown said. “I don’t think you’re ever prepared for situations like that. I think you have a protocol in place, but how many times do you have to deal with a situation like that. I thought our people dealt with it very professionally with both teams. I was very happy that they took really good care of Saint Francis. They did an outstanding job. That’s something that could of taken an hour or hour and a half and I thought our people took care of it in a timely manner.”