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Fan loyalty pays off

Yvonne Hawkins, right, of Marshall Township accepts the Butler Eagle March Madness Contest’s first-place check of $500 from Butler Eagle Vice President of Advertising Keith Graham. Pamela Laity/Butler Eagle
Longtime Pitt basketball season ticket holder wins Eagle’s March Madness contest

Yvonne Hawkins had never played the Butler Eagle’s March Madness Contest before.

But she’s been an avid college basketball fan for years — and that paid off.

Hawkins, 69, of Marshall Township won the $500 first prize in this year’s contest. She tallied 94 points to top the field of 908 entries.

“My husband, James, has an office in Butler and we’ve seen the contest in the paper over the years,” Hawkins said. “This year, I told him we should try it. I can’t believe I wound up winning.

“I am a big college basketball fan. Jim and I have had Pitt season tickets since the Petersen Events Center opened. I follow a lot of teams, watching games on television, and I knew them pretty well.”

Her husband also filled out a bracket for the contest. When asked where he finished, she responded: “Not as high as I did.”

Hawkins correctly predicted the entire Final Four — Connecticut, Alabama, Purdue and North Carolina State — and had UConn defeating N.C. State in the title game.

“I picked Purdue all the way through because I was rooting for the Butler kid (Ethan Morton) who plays for them,” she said. “But I didn’t trust them to get past North Carolina State. I’m a big ACC fan and I had their teams making deep runs on my bracket.

“I saw North Carolina State play Pitt and thought they were finding their game at the right time.”

Hawkins said Pitt “definitely should have made the tournament,“ but added the $500 prize ”makes up for that a little bit.

“My husband and I are going to take the money and plan a nice night out with it to celebrate this victory.”

Donald A. Blose, 57, of Ford City, won a tiebreaker over Josh Houston 32, of Butler, for the $250 second-place prize. Both scored 92 points. Houston gets $100 for third place.

Blose had UConn winning the tournament, but that was the only Final Four team he picked correctly.

“There’s always a few upsets early in the tournament and I hit on most of those,” Blose said. “Those upsets carried me through. I just got lucky.

“I’m going to take that money and simply enjoy it ... No special plans.”

Houston has played the Eagle’s March Madness contest for years and never came close to winning before this year. He had UConn, Purdue, Alabama and Marquette in the Final Four.

“I know I’ve never finished among the top 100 before and rarely have I made the top 500,” Houston said. “This is a major surprise for me.

“I’ve probably played that thing 10 or 12 times. There’s always some No. 12 to 16 seed that scores a big upset early that messes up the bracket. That didn’t happen to me this time.”

“I have my favorite teams that I pick to go deep and I really wanted Purdue to win this year. But you can study the bracket and the matchups all you want ... You need to have a little luck to win,” he added.

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