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Wildcat's relatives in Rock Hill support their NCAA Tourney superstar

Kentucky's Patrick Patterson finished with a dunk that pushed the Wildcats ahead 20-14 Thursday night against Cornell in the NCAA tournament.

The folks on the front row went wild.

"Let's get this show on the road,'' said Patrick's grandpa, Buster Patterson Sr.

Patrick's aunt, Helen Crawford, came out of her seat, shaking her blue and white Kentucky pompoms as hard as she could.

Another aunt, Princess Santiago, shouted out: "That's my baby!''

Although the Sweet 16 game was played in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., the front row for these fans was on a spacious sectional sofa inside the Rock Hill home of Patrick's grandparents.

Patrick Patterson is a 6-foot-9 star forward for the Wildcats, who battle West Virginia at 7 p.m. today for the right to advance to next weekend's Final Four. Patrick's father, Buster Jr., graduated from Northwestern High School and eventually settled in Huntington, W.Va.

Excitement is usually high when Patrick's South Carolina relatives gather to watch him play. His grandma, Rosie Patterson, likes to cheer but has become the steadying force. When the Wildcats get behind and the other relatives are working into a frenzy, Rosie has been known to stand up, look toward the sky and say a prayer.

At the Southeastern Conference tournament earlier this month in Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky finally made a much-needed basket that put the Wildcats ahead of Mississippi State in the title game.

Buster Sr., who has been known to leave his seat and pace when he gets nervous, was already up and ready to find some walking space.

"Mom stood up, and when I saw her looking toward the sky, I said 'Oh, Lord. She's praying again,''' Helen said. "Mom, who had been rocking back-and-forth while she prayed, stopped Dad and told him: 'Don't worry, we are going to win this game even if we win by one point.' And we ended up winning by a point.''

Rosie and Buster thought about travelling this week to Syracuse, but he doesn't like to fly. Plus, a party is being thrown today for Rosie.

It's a wedding shower.

Rosie and Buster are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on April 17. They will renew their vows in front of an expected big crowd of friends and family at Freedom Temple Ministries. Patrick, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren are the wedding party.

But don't worry.

Although the shower starts at 6 p.m. today, Helen required that the room rented by the family have a TV so everyone can watch Kentucky's game.

The men will gather at Buster Sr.'s house and watch the game in his "man cave.''

It's an interesting match-up, and not because it's the only regional with the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds still alive.

Patrick's dad settled in Huntington, W.Va., after retiring from the Navy. Patrick graduated from Huntington High School and played in the McDonald's High School All-America game.

When it came time to choose a college, Patrick chose Kentucky over Duke, Florida, Virginia, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

"I only get to see my family in Rock Hill on holidays or special occasions,'' Patrick said on Thursday afternoon from his hotel room while awaiting the Wildcats' match-up against Cornell. "When they get to come watch me play, it's a good time for all of us to be together. I'm really happy when any of them can come.

"I'm feeling good right now. I'm happy and enjoy being able to share this experience with my teammates. I chose Kentucky because of its tradition in basketball and because it's close to home. As far as next year goes, I'm undecided if I'll be back or enter the NBA draft. I'm not worrying about any of that. My mind is on having fun and winning a national championship.''

When Santiago first saw him in the hospital after he was born, she told the family Patrick was born for stardom. He had big hands, big feet and was "very long.''

"His hands were so big that they covered the palms of my hands,'' she said. "And those big feet ... he wears a 17 shoe now. We saw it coming. The day Patrick was born Buster (Jr.) walked into the room with a basketball under his arm.''

Patrick has family support in Syracuse. His dad, who is 6-6; his mom, Tywanna; and another aunt from Rock Hill, Ginger Barr and her husband, Thomas, were in the stands Thursday night. They will be back today, sitting behind the Wildcats in a group of Kentucky fans that might include avid Kentucky basketball fan actress Ashley Judd.

During Thursday's game, Helen and Princess thought they had picked up the group, tiny as it looked on television, and they were right.

No phone calls during a game, but it's a family ritual to start hitting the send buttons when a game reaches halftime.

Buster Jr. was first, and yes, they had picked him out on TV. Even knew which shirt he was wearing. And they spotted familes of the other Wildacts' players who they called out during the game. Rosie said Kentucky fans sit together in a "sea of blue.''

Next to call was Evelyn Patterson, another aunt who lives in Florence. She called to talk about the game and today's shower.

All calls were completed before the second half started, and Kentucky rolled to a 62-45 win.

Patrick ended up with 9 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. All was well at the Patterson household in Rock Hill.

Rosie, who is 67 and retired from a house-cleaning business she owned, and 71-year-old Buster Sr., who retired from a tire plant in Charlotte and worked six years doing maintenance at Carowinds before retiring, had made it through another Wildcats' victory.

During the game, Buster was a little nervous and got up twice, but only to get something to drink. Rosie, let's just say she is the rock of the family.

"It's like I always tell them and they never seem to listen when we get behind,'' she said. "It's never over until the fat lady sings.''

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