Joanne Ouellette has been attending Celtics games as a season ticket holder since 1974.
She got a blast from the past Wednesday night.
Ouellette, and her three children, Kyle, 14, Gabrielle, 12, and Bianca, 10, who all live in Woodward, Mass., were sitting right behind the basket a couple rows back when with 30 seconds to go in the first half, Nets forward Kris Humphries fouled Celtics center Kevin Garnett hard.
C’s point guard Rajon Rondo took exception to the foul and pushed Humphries. That’s when Humphries retaliated back at Rondo. Then things escalated… fast.
“I saw it happen,” Ouellette said. “I saw Rondo, I saw Humphries, and then the next thing I know they were all coming at us and KG [Garnett] was literally six inches from my face. KG was pulling [players off] and he was yelling.
“It looked like [Humphries] pulled [Rondo] is what it looked like to me. It was all so fast. They were literally three feet from us and then the seats in front of me were coming back onto my lap and then Kevin [Garnett] was on their seats and my seat was going back and I was hanging onto the kids and reaching back behind me yelling, “Are you OK?!”
Luckily, everybody was fine. Ouellette was able to protect Bianca, who sat next to her, while Kyle and Gabrielle avoided any direct contact in the seats behind them. The fact that NBA players were barreling their way surprisingly didn’t scare them.
“It was so fast, you couldn’t get scared,” Ouellette said. “I just didn’t want any of our guys to get hurt. I wasn’t really thinking about ourselves until I saw our seats coming back, and Kevin on them and the ref. And it was like, ‘Wow, everybody is falling backwards!’”
Humphries dragged Rondo down literally to the right of Kyle.
“I was surprised,” Kyle said of the breakout. “The referee came flying right at me. I saw it develop and I saw Rondo was right in front of me. I could tell it was bad news right from the beginning when they were at each other.
“[Humphries] was right here and took Rondo’s shirt off and that was the end of it.”
It could have been worse had C’s captain Paul Pierce not tried his best to break things up.
“I saw Paul Pierce holding Rondo back so they wouldn’t be swinging at each other,” Gabrielle recalled.
Bianca, who was wearing an “I Love Rondo shirt” during the game, couldn’t resist: “I screamed, ‘Rondo, I love you!’”
Ouellette will celebrate her birthday on Sunday, and having only missed 14 games since ’74, she has shared more than a few of them with the Celtics. The family will certainly be able to talk about this one for years to come.
“We’ll never forget this memory,” Ouellette said. “Some of my favorite memories are here because I obviously came here when I was a little girl with my parents and my brother, and it’s so wonderful to be able to give the memories to them.”