On a crisp March weekend in this part of the country, it can only mean one thing, March Madness. People frantically trying to fill out brackets, watching each game closely and cheering their favorite college team on. This year though, in our little town, people were less concerned about their NCAA tourney bracket and focused on something greater. We were playing for the Indiana High School State Championship. Well wishes, players names and numbers, and red and black adorned yards and signs all across town. Pep sessions, t-shirts, news stories, and articles in the paper put our town of 800 on the big stage for the first time. People relished in the atmosphere, showed their pride and school spirit, and for the first time felt like something great was in our grasp, and that we finally would get our storybook ending.
Driving up I 65 Saturday morning as the sun was coming up, my family and I were caravaning to the big game. I have attended state finals before, but never to watch my hometown team. I can remember seeing the other schools there, the excitement they had, and it only seemed like a dream that I would ever be there rooting on our beloved Braves. Now here we are, on our way to cheer on our team, it was our turn, and our time to shine. Other cars passed us on the road, flags flying, horns honking. Stopping at a rest area, seeing people donned in red and black giving each other high fives and hugs, the day had finally come for our team, our school, and our community.
Hearing the roar of the crowd when the team took the floor, and listening to the sweet melody of "Back Home Again in Indiana" before the game started brought so much emotion to the surface. I am sure that emotion was palpable for everyone in the crowd who called Borden home. From the tip off to the final horn, our kids played hard and confident. They hit big shots and at times, it almost looked like the angels of Borden past were up there giving them a little tap, just at the right moment. In the final seconds of the game when it was apparent we were going to win, I turned around and looked at the crowd. Thousands of people there for our team, our town. The horn sounded, the team celebrated and I think that everyone from Borden had to wipe back the tears that flowed. It was a moment of pure joy, a moment that I know I will never forget. You see, I've said it before, and I will say it again, it was about so much more than a game. It was about a group of boys that while working together on one of the family's farm last summer decided that they were going to win a state championship. It showed each kid in the crowd that with hard work and determination, the sky is the limit and that they too can do great things both on and off the court. It showed the Borden community that years of rallying around and supporting the school, even when times weren't great was all worth it. It showed everyone else what we have all known for a long time, that our community and school is relevant, that we have something special that is hard to find. It showed that people of the past who are no longer with us, that their hard work and dedication to Borden and the school lives on and has not been forgotten. It was amazing. It was the best day, and a moment I will cherish.
After the game the team headed to the bus carrying their state championship trophy to head back home. Amidst the charter buses of every other school there that day stood our little yellow bus. Our humble coaches and team carried the trophy onto the bus and headed south, having accomplished the goal that they and so many others have dreamed of long ago. They were welcomed home as heroes. The town and surrounding communities stopped, and watched a parade of fire trucks, police cars, and fans ushering that little yellow bus down the highway into town. People lined up by the road for miles, not only from Borden, but our neighbors who supported us along the way. Tears flowed again because at that moment to everyone there, Borden was the center of the universe. It was a homecoming that even Hollywood couldn't orchestrate.
Some people say that this is the end to our fairytale, our Cinderella story, but I beg to differ. It is the end to a chapter, a great chapter, and the story will go on, and these kids and this team will be legends, as they should be. Not only did they represent what we are all about, but they brought a town together and solidified what we have always known. Our pillars of faith, family, and community are what makes this place so special.
There was a sign on the edge of town for years that said "Welcome to Borden, a small town with a big future". They were right, and our future is bright.
I believe, I believe, I believe that we have won...STATE!